Scotland politics

Alex Salmond says Putin pride remark was not ill-judged

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Media captionAlex Salmond said his remarks about President Putin and Russia were balanced and sensible

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has said remarks he made about admiring Russian president Vladimir Putin were not ill-judged.

In a magazine interview he had commended Mr Putin on "restoring a substantial part of Russian pride".

However, a number of Westminster politicians called Mr Salmond's comments a "gross error of judgement".

A wide-ranging interview with the first minister is due to be published in GQ magazine on 1 May.

It was conducted by former Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell six weeks ago, which was before Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea.

Asked about whether he admired Mr Putin, Mr Salmond is reported to have said: "Certain aspects. He's restored a substantial part of Russian pride and that must be a good thing.

"There are aspects of Russian constitutionality and the inter-mesh with business and politics that are obviously difficult to admire. Russians are fantastic people, incidentally, they are lovely people."

Speaking to the BBC about the remarks, Mr Salmond insisted they were not ill-judged.

Sochi Olympics

He said: "I deprecated Russian actions, for example in Ukraine, and also its human rights record, and made that absolutely clear.

"I was pointing out the Western press have tended to underestimate Putin and I think that is also quite clear.

"And when I spoke about Russian pride, it was in the aftermath of the Sochi Olympics which I think most people would agree were well run, a success and restored Russian pride.

"They were balanced remarks and any reasonable interpretation would say they were pretty sensible as well."

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Image caption Vladimir Putin is the president of Russia and was commended by Alex Salmond for restoring "Russian pride"

However, Mr Salmond was criticised by Foreign Secretary William Hague, Labour MP Jim Murphy and Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell.

At Prime Minister's Question Time on Wednesday, David Cameron also claimed that Mr Salmond had made a ''major error of judgement'' for talking favourably about Mr Putin.

The Tory leader was speaking after the matter was raised in the House of Commons by the Labour MP for Edinburgh East, Sheila Gilmore.

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