Putin: We'll work with any candidate U.S. voters choose

Story highlights

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin calls Donald Trump "bright"
  • Putin says Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is more familiar with Hillary Clinton

(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump "bright" and said his country is prepared to work with any candidate American voters elect.

"Mr. Trump says he's ready to restore full-fledged Russian-American relations. What can be bad about it?"
Putin, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev were part of a panel moderated by CNN's Fareed Zakaria at the 20th International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
    Zakaria read from a report that had Putin calling Trump "brilliant," "outstanding" and "talented." He asked Putin what led him to that judgment and whether he still holds that opinion.
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    But Putin told Zakaria he had changed the meaning of his comments. Zakaria said later he was reading from a translation of an Interfax news report
    "I only said he was a bright person. Isn't he bright?" Putin asked. "I did not say anything else about him."
    He stressed that Russia doesn't meddle in the internal political affairs of other nations and will work with anyone who is elected.
    As for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Putin said he didn't work with her that much but that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did.
    "She probably has her own view of U.S.-Russian relations."
    He said he's seen many people change after they are appointed to some office and that when they have different responsibilities, they start thinking differently.
    Russia hopes that a sense of responsibility will serve to bring about a more secure world and greater cooperation between the United States and Russia, Putin said.

    Hopes for improved ties with Europe

    Putin also dealt with other issues in his remarks. As for Europe, he called for improved relations with leaders there.
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    At present, sanctions have been used against Russia over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its activities in Ukraine.
    As for Syria, he said the United States should persuade opposition leaders to have a dialogue with the regime in Damascus. He said he agrees with an American proposal to include opposition representatives in the government.