KEY POINTS

  • Bernie Ecclestone called Putin 'a first-class person'
  • He slammed Zelensky for refusing to make a 'big enough effort' to speak to Putin
  • He previously called Putin 'honorable' a day after Russia invaded Ukraine

Bernie Ecclestone, the former Formula One chief executive, on Thursday said he would take a bullet for Russian President Vladimir Putin who he called a “first-class person.”

Ecclestone, 91, made the remarks during an interview on a British TV show, “Good Morning Britain.” He also slammed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

"I'd still take a bullet for him. I'd rather it didn't hurt, but I would still take a bullet,” Ecclestone said of Putin. “He’s a first class person and what he’s doing is something that he believed was the right thing he was doing for Russia.”

Turning to Zelensky, Ecclestone told his interviewers: “He used to be a comedian and it seems he wants to continue that profession because I think if he had thought about things and made a big enough effort to speak to Mr Putin, who is a sensible person and would have listened to him and could have probably done something about it.”

When Ecclestone was asked what he thought of Russian forces claiming the lives of more than 4,700 Ukrainian civilians amid the war, the former F1 boss said he believes it was “unintentional.”

Ecclestone, who was replaced as chief executive of F1 in 2017, has been a subject of controversy on several occasions over the past years. On Feb. 25 of this year, a day after Russia invaded Ukraine, the former F1 boss told Times Radio that Putin was “honorable.”

In 2020, in the months following George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a white Minneapolis officer, Ecclestone told CNN that “Black people are more racist than what White people are.”

In 2014, the former F1 boss said he “completely agrees” with Putin’s anti-gay legislation, which banned the promotion of “gay propaganda” to minors. During the same year, Ecclestone built up a relationship with Putin during the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

In 2009, Ecclestone praised Nazi leader Adolf Hitler for “getting things done,” a comment he later apologized for. In the same year, he compared women to appliances, adding that females should be “dressed in white.”

Russian President Putin attends Caspian Summit in Ashgabat
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sputnik/Grigory Sysoyev/Pool via REUTERS Reuters / SPUTNIK
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