NIGEL Farage’s decision to name Vladimir Putin as the world leader he most admires is “utterly grotesque” and shows how “extreme his views have become”, Nick Clegg has said.
The Deputy Prime Minister attacked the Ukip leader for lauding the Russian president over the way he “played the whole Syria thing” in the face of innocent Syrians being driven from their homes, brutalised and murdered.
Mr 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 United Nations, but was widely seen to have outwitted the US last year when he brokered a deal under which Damascus agreed to give up its chemical weapons.
Mr Clegg, who went head to head with the Ukip leader in a debate on the European Union last week, suggested Mr Farage’s hatred of Brussels had led to the “morally perverse conclusion” about president Putin and exposed his extremist beliefs.
At a press conference in Westminster he said: “I just think it is utterly grotesque that Nigel Farage apparently admires - and that was the question to him, ‘Who do you admire?’ - admires someone, Vladimir Putin, who has been the chief sponsor and protector of one of the most brutal dictators on the face of the planet, President Assad, who has blocked at every single turn in the United Nations any attempt by the international community to work in concert to help the many, many millions of people who have been driven from their homes and have been brutalised, and have been tortured and have been killed.
“And to then express his admiration by saying that he thinks that Vladimir Putin has played it all as if it’s a game. This isn’t a game. This is thousands upon thousands of people being killed and brutalised and murdered and chased from their homes who we are now taking into our country.
“Women and children who have been sexually abused, who have been physically abused, and we are thankfully acting in a generous-hearted way to provide them refuge.
“And he admires the man who has allowed, more than almost any other world leaders, that to happen?
“I just think if your hatred of all things to do with the European Union leads to such a morally perverse conclusion - that you admire the one leader in the world who could have reined in President Assad - it really shows quite how extreme his views have become.”
Mr Farage told of his admiration for the Russian president in an interview for GQ magazine by Labour’s former director of communications Alastair Campbell.
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?”
The comments emerged after the Ukip leader when debating with Mr Clegg said that the European Union had “blood on its hands” for encouraging rebellion in Ukraine, Syria and Libya.