MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday rejected claims he has a poor personal relationship with President Barack Obama, praising his American counterpart as direct and “interesting” to work with.
Putin described Obama as a “concrete, business-like” partner, during an interview with state-run Channel One television ahead of the G20 summit Russia hosts in Saint Petersburg starting Thursday.
“All our talks are very constructive in nature, very substantive and rather frank,” Putin said in an interview released on Wednesday.
“In this respect the U.S. president is a very good interlocutor, he is easy to talk to because it’s clear what the person wants, his position is clear, he listens to the position of another person.”
“It’s interesting for me to work with him.”
After Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term last year, ties with the United States dramatically deteriorated over a host of issues including the Syrian crisis and human rights.
Tensions reached a peak after Moscow this summer gave asylum to the U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden prompting Obama to scrap his planned bilateral visit to Moscow ahead of the G20.
Putin admitted he was disappointed by his U.S. counterpart’s decision but noted it was not a “catastrophe” and he understood that some of Moscow’s decisions did not sit well with the U.S. administration.
“I think it would be good not to get irritable but for all of us to become patient and work to find solutions.”
The Kremlin earlier said a bilateral meeting or even less formal talks were not scheduled for Putin and Obama at the G20 summit but the Russian strongman said he was looking forward to having a discussion with Obama.
The previous meeting between the two leaders at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June was visibly frosty, with journalists scrutinising their body language and pointing to their apparent unease with each other.
Afterwards Obama admitted Putin often looked like “the bored kid in the back of the classroom.”
Putin said he was surprised to hear observers interpret their body language.
“Sometimes I am surprised to read about the language of gestures, about how bored we are or that we behave in some other way. Who can say except ourselves what’s on our mind and in our heart?”
“There are some gestures that can of course be interpreted unambiguously but no-one has ever seen such gestures from me towards Obama or from Obama towards me and I hope that will never happen,” Putin said.
“And the rest is just figments of imagination.”
Photo Credit: AFP/Jewel Samad