Russian President Vladimir Putin praised his counterpart in the U.S., saying that a decision by President Donald Trump to set up a meeting with North Korea is "brave and mature."
Putin said he is expecting a "positive outcome" from the meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, due to take place in Singapore on June 12.
"I still hope that this meeting — a very brave and mature decision U.S. President Donald Trump has made, to have direct contacts with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — will take place, and we all expect a positive outcome," Putin said in an interview with China Media Group, published on the Kremlin website Tuesday.
However, Putin added it was "a pity that our Western partners, the United States and, unfortunately, South Korea have not stopped their military exercises and maneuvers that do nothing to aid de-escalation" of tensions in the region.
The meeting between Trump and Kim, hailed as a diplomatic landmark in relations between the traditional enemies, was initially canceled by Trump due to what he called the "open hostility" from Pyongyang. But, in a dramatic change of course the president announced earlier this week that it was back on.
Although both leaders have expressed admiration for each other in the past, relations between the West and Russia remain strained. Economic sanctions are still in place on Moscow for its annexation of Crimea and its perceived role in the pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine in 2014, accusations of meddling in the U.S. election in 2016, as well as differences over Syria and Iran.
Putin's comments on the meeting come as speculation mounts over when Trump and the Russian leader could next meet. Asked about relations with the West during the interview, Putin said he looked forward to "good, positive relations."
"We are not surprised by any restrictions or sanctions; this does not frighten us and will never force us to abandon our independent, sovereign path of development … But we understand that our partners are trying to limit our development by imposing these restrictions and sanctions," he said.
Sanctions were futile, Putin said, and the policy "primarily hurts those who initiated it" but he believed that "common sense will still prevail."
In an interview on Monday ahead of a visit to Austria, Putin appeared to soften his tone towards Russia's neighbor Europe, insisting that Russia did not want to see a divided EU, despite claims that the country has meddled in various elections in the region in order to promote euroskeptic parties and ideologies.
Putin said he wanted to see a "prosperous and united" EU. "The more problems there are in the EU, the bigger our risks and uncertainties," Putin told Austrian broadcaster ORF.
"We need to build cooperation with the EU," he added.