Russian President Vladimir Putin gave GOP front-runner Donald Trump praise Thursday, saying the conservative firebrand was a “talented” man and an “absolute leader.”

Speaking at his annual year-end news conference, Mr. Putin called the billionaire candidate “a very bright and talented man,” according to Interfax.

Mr. Putin said he would welcome the chance the improve U.S.-Russia relations under a Trump presidency.

“He says that he wants to move to another level of relations, to a deeper level of relations with Russia. How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome it,” Mr. Putin said, Reuters reported.

He added that it was none of his business to assess Mr. Trump’s controversial rhetoric, which he called “tricks Donald Trump [is] using to boost his popularity,” according to Interfax.

The feeling is mutual, Mr. Trump has repeatedly praised the Russian leader’s strength and said he would be eager to cut deals with him.

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