Russian president Vladimir Putin says Russia wants to develop relations with the United States irrespective of who will become the next president, although he had particular words of praise for billionaire Republican front-runner, Donald Trump. Mana Rabiee has more.
Vladimir Putin told reporters during his annual end-of-year news conference that he welcomes calls by Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump for deeper relations with Russia. He says Trump is the man to watch. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: "He is a very flamboyant man, very talented, no doubt about that... He is an absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today." But Putin says no matter who wins next year's election, Russia, is also eager to develop better relations. It was just one topic in a wide-ranging news conference. Putin also said he broadly backs a U.S. plan to prepare a U.N. resolution on Syria - but that Moscow isn't ready yet to withdraw its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: "We think that Syrian people alone should determine who they want to rule them, under which standards and which rules." The annual news conference by the president is a 'set-piece' of Russian political life. Putin used the event to reassure Russians -- on their economy and the conflict abroad... as Moscow deals with Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, falling oil prices and a weakening rouble. He also gave praise to his own children, a subject he rarely discusses. "They have never got pleasure from the spotlight being aimed at them", he said. "They just live their own lives."