Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared eager to strike a cautious tone in his latest comments about the U.S. presidential election, saying he is ready to work with whoever wins the race. When CNN’s Fareed Zakaria asked Putin directly about his previous praise for Donald Trump at a forum on Friday, the Russian leader said his previous comments that had been widely reported as praise for the real estate mogul had been misinterpreted. “Why do you always change the meaning of what I said?” Putin asked Zakaria.
Putin said he had only described Trump as “flamboyant.” In December, Putin had said Trump was “very flamboyant,” “very talented,” and “an absolute leader in the presidential race,” according to Reuters.
The Guardian translates the word Putin used to describe Trump—“яркий”— as “colorful,” but notes that it is a word that “can be translated with ambiguous connotations, from gaudy to striking to dazzling.” CNN translates the word as “bright.” But for Putin there was little doubt about what he meant. “You see, it’s like I said,” Putin said. “Trump’s a colorful person. And well, isn’t he colorful? Colorful. I didn’t make any other kind of characterization about him.”
Putin did praise Trump in his call to restore full ties with Russia. “What’s wrong with that? We all welcome this, don’t you?” Putin asked to applause from the audience.
When he was asked about Hillary Clinton, Putin didn’t say much, noting he didn’t really work directly with her when she was secretary of state. But he did praise her husband, saying that the two enjoyed “a very nice relationship” when Bill Clinton was president.
At another point, Putin also said he fully accepted that the United States was probably the only superpower in the world. “America is a great power—today probably the only superpower. We accept that,” Putin said. “We want to and are ready to work with the United States.”