Ukip tribute to Russia's Putin
A Ukip MEP has spoken of her admiration of Vladimir Putin because he is a "very nationalist" leader who was "standing up for his country".
Relations between the West and the Russian president have collapsed over the annexation of Crimea and Moscow's support for Ukrainian separatists.
But in remarks that echo Ukip leader Nigel Farage's naming of Mr Putin as the world leader he most admired for his "brilliant" handling of the civil war in Syria, Diane James lauded him for the way he reacted to perceived intervention by the European Union.
"I admire him from the point of view that he's standing up for his country. He's very nationalist," Ms James - who recently withdrew as Ukip's General Election candidate in North West Hampshire for family reasons - told LBC radio: "I do admire him. He is a very strong leader."
"He is putting Russia first and he has issues with how the EU encouraged a change of government in the Ukraine, which he felt put at risk and put in danger a Russian population in that country."
Mrs James added: "Nigel went on record saying if you provoke the Russian bear you're going to get a reaction."
Asked by GQ magazine last year which leader he most admired, Mr Farage said : "As an operator, but not as a human being, I would say Putin. The way he played the whole Syria thing. Brilliant. Not that I approve of him politically. How many journalists in jail now?"
While stressing that he did not approve of Mr Putin's annexation of Crimea, he said EU leaders had been "weak and vain", adding: "If you poke the Russian bear with a stick he will respond."
Mrs James stepped in at the last minute to join an all-female debate - along with Nicky Morgan of the Conservatives, Labour's Harriet Harman and Lib Dem Lynne Featherstone - after Ukip deputy chairman Suzanne Evans lost her voice.
Former Scottish first minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond has also given some praise to Mr Putin as being "more effective than the press he gets".
Pressed on whether he admires the Russian leader, the First Minister told GQ last year: "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."