Orlando, FL – Former President Donald Trump defended his praise Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, and called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “brave man” amid Russia’s deadly invasion of his country.

“He’s a brave man, he’s holding on,” Trump said of Zelensky in a speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, even though he dismissed Putin’s compliments as “smart.”

“The problem is not that Putin is smart, that of course he is smart,” Trump said. “The problem is that our leaders are stupid … and so far have allowed him to get away with this breed and the encroachment on humanity.”

“Putin is playing [President Joe] Biden is like a drum, and it’s unpleasant to watch, “he continued.

WATCH: What you need to know about Russian President Vladimir Putin

The former president has repeatedly praised Putin in the days since Russian troops entered Ukraine and launched missile strikes on the country’s capital, Kiev. His comments on Zelensky came days after he praised Putin, calling the Kremlin leader “brilliant” and “smart” in a radio interview. These remarks were the last of many instances where the 45th president approved of or admired authoritarian rulers. In addition to Putin, Trump has previously commented positively on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But other Republicans shied away from admiring the Kremlin leader. In a series of speeches at the CPAC, Republican presidential candidates are rumored to have repeated Trump’s criticism of the Biden administration, but did not compliment Putin, as the former president did.

Although Trump softened his praise for the Kremlin leader by sharply condemning Putin’s decision to “ruthlessly attack” Ukraine, he maintained his strongest criticism of Biden and elected Democrats.

“The Russian attack on Ukraine is terrible. This is outrage and atrocities that could never have been allowed, ”Trump said at a conservative meeting in Orlando. “I have no doubt that President Putin made his decision … only after looking at the deplorable withdrawal from Afghanistan.” Thirteen U.S. servicemen were killed in an explosion at Kabul airport during the Biden administration’s withdrawal this summer from Afghanistan, which has since come under Taliban control.

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The former president, who was impeached for the first time during his presidency after using security aid to Ukraine as a pretext to pressure officials to investigate his political rival, also tried to take over in his remarks on Saturday. merit for the armament of Ukraine.

“I gave Ukraine the spears everyone is talking about now, and millions of dollars in other military equipment. The Obama administration gave them blankets,” Trump said.

Trump said Russia would never have invaded Ukraine if he were president, and claimed – falsely – that the 2020 election was stolen.

“Under Biden, Russia invaded Ukraine. I am the only 21st century president under whose guard Russia has not invaded another country,” Trump said, describing the global perception of the United States during his presidency as “powerful, cunning and smart.”

“Under our administration, Russia respected America,” he told the crowd.

Although Biden regularly took new sanctions against Russia during his tenure, Trump argued that the Biden administration released Putin “without any consequences” in response to his full-scale invasion of Ukraine by blocking exports and new sanctions. against Russian banks and oligarchs. . Biden announced a new round of sanctions on Thursday after Putin ordered the introduction of Russian troops into Ukraine.

“Putin says: sanction me?” Well, they’ve sanctioned me for the last 25 years, “Trump said, calling Biden’s response earlier this week” a rather weak statement. “

MORE: Do sanctions harm Russia? As the West tightens financial sanctions for invading Ukraine

Other Republicans who took to the CPAC stage this week also encouraged the Biden administration to take more decisive action against Putin, although they refused to use the same positive rhetoric against the Russian leader that Trump has so often used.

“A strong American president would work with European partners to replace Russian oil supplies with American energy, and they would hit Putin where it really hurts – the Russian energy sector. If Joe Biden can’t or won’t do these things, then he should resign, ”South Dakota Gov. Christy Noem said in her speech Friday.

Trump also used his appearance on Saturday to briefly lift his first impeachment in 2019, which came after Trump used security aid for Ukraine as bait to put pressure on the country’s officials – including Zelensky – to investigate their political rivals.

“It was really a scam,” Trump said of the impeachment proceedings.

And he has strongly hinted that he intends to run for the White House again in 2024, telling the Orlando crowd that voters will show the country that the “sleeping giant” has woken up starting November 8 and then even more in November 2024.

“We’ve done it twice, and we’ll do it again,” Trump said.

Trump has not yet officially announced his intentions to run for president, but continues to take steps to suggest that he is preparing for a rematch with Biden. Trump made a similar comment at the CPAC last year shortly after losing to his Democratic rival.

The-CNN-Wire © & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., WarnerMedia. All rights reserved.

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