During his time as Russian leader, Vladimir Putin has presided over a brutal war in Chechnya, encouraged the fracturing of South Ossetia from Georgia, seized Crimea, pushed separatism in eastern Ukraine and provided the equipment that led to Russian proxies shooting down a Malaysian airliner, leading to the death of 300 civilians.
MEP Diane James’ recent praise for the Russian leader was followed on Friday by a similarly offbeat line from the party’s deputy leader Paul Nuttall, who criticised the European Union for refusing to recognise the "democratic" referendum in Crimea backing its annexation by Russia.
Nuttall said he understood why Putin seized the territory following the overthrow of his ally, the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Putin's actions in Ukraine - including backing separatist rebels in a bloody civil war in the east of the country - have been widely condemned by Western countries, including Britain, which have refused to recognised Moscow's takeover of Crimea.
Interviewed on LBC Radio, Nuttall said that while he regarded the Russian president as a "reprehensible individual", he could not be blamed for his response to events in Ukraine. "Whether you like it or not, the Ukrainian president was democratically elected. He was overthrown by a mob in Kiev waving European Union flags," he said. "Some of those people who overthrew him make the BNP and the National Front look pretty liberal - we are talking about far-right anti-Semite Nazis.
He added: "The EU then recognised this new government which was brought in by mob rule but then refused to recognise the democratic referendum in Crimea. I don't admire what he (Putin) has done but I understand why he has done it."
On Thursday, James praised Putin for "putting Russia first". She said: "I admire him from the point of view that he's standing up for his country. He's very nationalist. Ukip leader Nigel Farage has also previously praised Putin as an "operator" - describing his handling of the Syria crisis as "brilliant".