UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has named Vladimir Putin as the world leader he most admires, praising the Russian president's handling of the crisis in Syria.
Farage's comments emerged just days after the Ukip leader said the European Union had "blood on its hands" for encouraging rebellion in Ukraine, Syria and Libya. He said EU leaders had been "weak and vain", adding: "If you poke the Russian bear with a stick he will respond".
The Ukip leader was quizzed for GQ magazine by Labour's former director of communications Alistair Campbell, in his first interview in his new role as the glossy monthly's "arch-interrogator".
Asked which current world leader he most admired, Mr Farage replied: "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?"
Putin has been blamed by the West for prolonging the Syrian conflict by supplying arms to dictator Bashar Assad and blocking moves to censure or sanction him at the UN, but was widely seen to have outwitted Obama last year when he brokered a deal under which Assad agreed to give up chemical weapons.