Days after dismissing allegations that Vladimir Putin was responsible for the deaths of several journalists in the country, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump reiterated his defense of the Russian president, stating that “nobody has proven that he’s killed anyone.”
“In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that. I don’t know that he has,” Trump, who was last week called a “colorful and talented man” by the Russian president, said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “He has always denied it. You're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, at least in our country.”
Trump also criticized U.S. President Barack Obama’s frosty relationship with Putin, saying that the Russian president “can’t stand our president, and it’s causing us difficulties.”
“I believe I will get along fine with Putin,” Trump said. “And frankly, if Russia wants to bomb the hell out of ISIS, and join us in that effort, I am absolutely fine with it.”
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 56 journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992, including at least 23 since Putin first took power in 2000. The Russian president has also been accused of being involved in the killings of at least nine political opponents, including Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead in Moscow in March.
According to a recent Pew survey, Russia and Putin are seen largely unfavorably across the globe, with 67 percent of Americans holding an unfavorable opinion of the country. Three-quarters of Americans have no confidence in Putin to do the "right thing regarding world affairs."
Although the U.S. and Russia have been longtime foes, relations between the two nations have deteriorated rapidly over the past two years, following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March last year, and the subsequent imposition of economic sanctions on Russia. The two countries are also divided over the issue of political transition in Syria, where Putin has remained unflinching in his support of President Bashar Assad.
“If we get along well with Russia, that’s a positive thing,” Trump added. “[It’s] not a negative thing.”