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Bernie Ecclestone thinks 'it's wrong to stop Russian athletes, including drivers, taking part in their sport'.— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) June 30, 2022
The former Formula One CEO says 'if Ukraine had wanted to get out of [the war] properly, they could have done.' pic.twitter.com/mWZTrbg5pT
Ecclestone has not distanced himself from Putin after he announced a 'military operation' in Ukraine in February, and in fact described him as 'honourable' just one day after Russian troops crossed the border.
Four months on, Ecclestone made clear he was still standing by Putin as he appeared on Good Morning Britain with hosts Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway, where he was asked if he still regarded Putin as a friend.
In response to the question, Ecclestone said: "I’d still take a bullet for him. I’d rather it didn’t hurt, but if it did I’d still take a bullet for him."
The businessman, 91, went on to describe Putin as a 'first-class person' and appeared to defend his invasion of Ukraine as he commented: "What he’s doing is something he believed is the right thing he was doing for Russia. Unfortunately, he’s like a lot of business people, like me, we make mistakes from time to time."
Ecclestone expressed belief the situation in Ukraine 'wasn't intentional to be a war' and claimed that if Ukraine wanted to 'get out of it properly, [it] could have done'.
He said he hadn't had chance to speak to Putin since the war began, but said he imagines Putin 'now wishes he hadn't have started this whole business'.
"It didn't start as a war," he continued.
Ecclestone then began discussing the response of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying: "I think if he’d thought about things, he would have made a big enough effort to speak to Mr Putin, who is a sensible person and would have listened to him and probably would have done something about it."
Host Shephard reminded Ecclestone that thousands of people have died as a result of the war in Ukraine, but the former F1 star argued again it 'wasn't intentional', adding: "Look at the number of times America has moved into different countries that has nothing to do with America… they like wars because they sell a lot of armour so it’s good for them."
Putin and Ecclestone formed their friendship following the introduction of the Russian Grand Prix in 2014. A few years later, Ecclestone told The Times Putin was a 'good guy' and claimed he would like to see him 'running Europe'.