Russia-Ukraine war: Trump faced criticism over his relationship with Putin. (File Photo)

Former US President Donald Trump said that he believed Russian leader Vladimir Putin was “only trying to negotiate” when he sent troops to Ukrainian border and that he was surprised that Russia actually invaded its neighbour. The Republican leader added that Putin has changed since the two leaders worked together.

Trump made the comments while in an exclusive interview to the Washington Examiner.

“I’m surprised – I’m surprised. I thought he was negotiating when he sent his troops to the border. I thought he was negotiating,” Trump said from his Mar-a-Lago estate. “I thought it was a tough way to negotiate but a smart way to negotiate,” he added.

The former US President said he thought Putin is looking for a good deal.

“I figured he was going to make a good deal like everybody else does with the United States and the other people they tend to deal with – you know, like every trade deal. We’ve never made a good trade deal until I came along,” Trump said. “And then he went in – and I think he’s changed. I think he’s changed. It’s a very sad thing for the world. He’s very much changed,” he added.

Trump faced criticism over his relationship with the Russian President when he occupied the US top office. Since the Ukraine war began, he has also been in the line of fire for not denouncing the action.

Current President Joe Biden has severely criticised Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and even slapped economic sanctions on Russia.

Trump further told Washington Examiner that he was “very, very tough on Putin” and claimed that Russia would have never invaded Ukraine had he been the President.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine began from land, air and sea on February 24 and in the last three weeks, several cities have been destroyed and millions of refuges have left Ukraine. The Russian forces are now moving towards capital Kyiv to completely take over Ukraine.