US President Donald Trump has defended Vladimir Putin when questioned over allegations of murders carried out by the Russian state.
In an interview with Fox News, he said: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
Mr Trump said he respected President Putin and would prefer to “get along with him”.
He said he wanted help from Russia in the fight against “Islamic terrorism”.
Excerpts of the interview with Bill O’Reilly, carried out at Mr Trump’s Florida home, have been released ahead of the full interview being broadcast by Fox ahead of Sunday evening’s Super Bowl, and on the two following nights.
Asked whether he respected Mr Putin, the US president replied: “I do respect him… well I respect a lot of people. That doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him.”
He added: “I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against Isis [so-called Islamic State], which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world – that’s a good thing. Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”
The two men spoke on the phone last Saturday and have agreed to stay in “regular personal contact” but no date has been set for a meeting.
Mr Trump was also asked whether it was responsible to make claims about issues without citing facts to back them up, such as his contention that millions of people voted illegally during the US presidential election that he won – but with almost three million fewer votes than his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
He replied: “Many people have come out and said I’m right, you know that.
“When you see illegals, people that are not citizens and they are on the registration rolls… you have illegals, you have dead people… it’s really a bad situation.”