Former F1 supremo Ecclestone condemned for 'extraordinary' Putin comments

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 27, 2019 Bernie Ecclestone REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone drew condemnation on Thursday after the 91-year-old defended Russian President Vladimir Putin in a television interview as a "first class person" he would "take a bullet" for.

The Briton, who is no longer involved in Formula One, also told ITV's Good Morning Britain that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy could have ended the Russian invasion of his country by talking to Putin.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the comments were "absolutely extraordinary".

Formula One said in a statement they were "his personal views and are in very stark contrast to the position of the modern values of our sport".

Ecclestone had warm relations with Putin, establishing the now-cancelled Russian Grand Prix.

"He's a first-class person and what he's doing is something that he believes is the right thing he was doing for Russia," said Ecclestone, who has a history of controversial statements.

"Unfortunately he's like a lot of business people, certainly like me, that we make mistakes from time to time and when you've made the mistake you have to do the best you can to get out of it."

Ecclestone noted that Zelenskiy was a former comedian.

"I think it seems as if he wants to continue that profession," he said.

"I think if he'd have thought about things, he would definitely have made a big enough effort to speak to Mr Putin, who is a sensible person and would have listened to him and could have probably done something about it."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Alison Williams)

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