Salmond under fire from PM over Putin comments

Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Picture: Getty
Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Picture: Getty
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PRIME Minister David Cameron has accused First Minister Alex Salmond of a “major error of judgement” over remarks he made expressing ‘admiration’ for Russian President Vladimir Putin

Ukranian expatriates in Scotland have demanded a “public apology” from the First Minister, insisting his comments have provoked “hurt, disgust, betrayal and astonishment.”

Mr Salmond told GQ magazine that he admired “certain aspects” of President Putin, including how he had restored part of Russian pride, although he said he did not approve of a range of actions.

Asked today if he would retract the comments, Mr Salmond told BBC News: “No, they weren’t ill judged.

“I deprecated Russian actions, for example, in Ukraine and also the human rights record - I made that absolutely clear.

“I was pointing out the Western press had tended to underestimate Putin and I think that’s also quite clear.

“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.”

The issue came under the spotlight at Westminster today when David Cameron hit out at the Mr Salmond’s remarks during Prime Ministers Questions.

Mr Cameron said: “I think that what Alex Salmond said was a major error of judgement.

“I think all of us in this house should be supporting the Ukranian desire to be a sovereign independent country and have the respect of the international community and party leaders for that ambition.”

Michael Ostapko, chairman of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, Scotland, has fired off an angry letter to Mr Salmond demanding an “unequivocal public apology” for the comments.

“We fail to see how you can be so effusive in admiration towards this despotic and criminally run nation whose own citizens are cowed into submission (not admiration) by arrests, assassination and rabid nationalism,”Mr Ostapko wrote.

“In this year of your own ‘independence’ aspiration, one can only fear for what kind of nation you wish to create.”