A top presenter on Russian state TV has come out firmly in favour of Donald Trump in his bid to become US president, hailing him as an “anti-establishment” candidate who is ready to co-operate with Moscow.
Russian state TV has regularly shown sympathy towards Mr Trump, especially after his apparently complimentary remarks about President Vladimir Putin. But it is only in the last week or so that it has started to unequivocally praise him.
Fronting his two-and-half hour news review on official channel Rossiya 1 on 13 March, Dmitri Kiselyov hit out strongly at what he saw as a conspiracy by the US political elite to stymie Mr Trump’s White House ambitions.
He said Mr Trump was an “anti-establishment” candidate, who stood apart from the hierarchy of the Republican Party in wanting to forge good relations with Putin. “This is why Mr Trump is not wanted and is even seen as harmful,” he said.
Dmitri Kiselyov is a key figure in the Kremlin’s media operation. As well as presenting a flagship current affairs show on state TV, he is the head of the government-funded international news agency Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today).
He is also known for his outspoken attacks on the US. On more than one occasion, he has boasted of Russia’s ability to reduce it to “radioactive ash”.
A week earlier, Mr Kiselyov had praised the “anti-establishment” Trump in even more glowing terms as the “rising star” of US politics.
Russian state TV is often scathing about attempts by wealthy businessmen to carve out political careers for themselves. But the Russian TV anchor appeared to see a virtue in Mr Trump’s vast personal fortune.
“In his own words, he is the only one of the contenders to have hired people with his own money. That is, he gave people work. In America, they value this,” he said.
Mr Kiselyov’s praise of Mr Trump has skirted around his more controversial views, such as his proposed ban on Muslims entering the US and his plans for building a wall along the border with Mexico.
But the New York businessman also has a strong following among extreme Russian nationalists, such as Alexander Dugin, who have links with anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant parties in Europe.
In a video posted on YouTube after Super Tuesday, Mr Dugin gave a ringing endorsement of the US property billionaire in his broken English, declaring “In Trump we trust“.
He was also perhaps more explicit than Dmitri Kiselyov in identifying why Moscow might be favouring Trump’s candidacy. “Trump is the voice of real right-wing America which, in fact, doesn’t care about foreign policy and American hegemony,” he said.
In the course of the video, Alexander Dugin also poured scorn on Mr Trump’s Republican rivals and critics. He used a homophobic slur to attack Florida senator Marco Rubio and labelled Senator John McCain, a notable Putin critic, as “insane” and “disabled”.