A key ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin has expressed his approval of presidential hopeful Donald Trump, saying the presumptive Republican candidate could improve international relations.
Vladimir Yakunin, the former chairman of Russian Railways and a founding president of the World Public Forum, was attending the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum ahead of the launch next month of a new international think tank which aims to facilitate conflict resolution and ease worldwide tensions.
Speaking to CNBC's Geoff Cutmore, he argued that the appeal of Trump was more complex than is often reported.
"Firstly, he is a smart guy; he lost two times everything he had and raised himself up," Yakunin said. "He is addressing some internal failings of the American people."
"The establishment are trying to curb the Trump phenomenon by supporting Mrs (presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary) Clinton. That is, to my mind, too simple."
Yakunin also suggested that, historically, it has been Republican presidents who improved relations between the U.S. and Russia.
"It was always Republicans when, in the old days, some of kind of bridges were constructed," he added. "If Mr Trump is coming into power, that will be more facilitative to faster establishing new kinds of relations."
Yakunin also discussed how relations between the Russia and the West had deteriorated in recent years, especially since the Ukrainian crisis which led to the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
He called for both sides to stop sending out propaganda, to collaborate and to restore bridges of communication.
He also criticised recent comments made by European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker, which said Russia had illegally annexed Crimea and Sevastopol, as being unhelpful.
"There isn't any glimpse of a positive addition, any positive direction of how we can overcome [differences]," he said. "That is not correct communication at all."