President Donald Trump has voiced his “respect” for Russian leader Vladimir Putin but said that does not mean he will get along with him.
In excerpts released from an interview with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, he said: “I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him.
“He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world – that’s a good thing.
“Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”
When the interviewer called the Russian leader “a killer,” Mr Trump responded that the United States has many of them.
“What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
Mr Trump has long expressed a wish for better ties with Moscow, praised Mr Putin and signalled that US-Russia relations could be in line for a makeover.
Mr Putin has called Mr Trump a “very bright and talented man”.
During Mr Putin’s years in power, a number of prominent Russian opposition figures and journalists have been killed.
The Trump administration on Thursday revised recent US sanctions that had unintentionally prevented American companies from exporting certain consumer electronic products to Russia.
The change allows companies to deal with Russia’s security service, which licenses such exports under Russian law.
The products were not intended to be covered by the sanctions the Obama administration imposed on December 29 after US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the presidential election. The White House denied it was easing sanctions.
Last week, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley condemned Russia’s “aggressive actions” in eastern Ukraine and warned Moscow that US sanctions imposed after its annexation of Crimea will remain until the peninsula is returned to Ukraine.
But she tempered her criticism, saying it was “unfortunate” that she had to condemn Russia in her first appearance at the UN Security Council.
“We do want to better our relations with Russia,” Ms Haley said.