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Putin hails Elon Musk as an 'outstanding person' and businessman

FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk attends the VivaTech conference in Paris

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday hailed South African-born businessman Elon Musk as an "outstanding person" and businessman whose SpaceX company had become a major player in the space transportation industry.

Putin's public praise of Musk comes days after the U.S.-based entrepreneur said he refused a Ukrainian request last year to activate his Starlink satellite network in Crimea's port city of Sevastopol to aid an attack on Russia's fleet there, saying he feared complicity in a "major" act of war.

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev took to X earlier this month to laud Musk over that decision - which has been sharply criticised by Ukrainian politicians - as "the last adequate mind in North America".

Putin, speaking at an economic forum in Russia's far east, did not refer to the Starlink incident. But when asked about the success of Musk's SpaceX company in launching rockets into space, he said:

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"As far as private business and Elon Musk is concerned... he is undoubtedly an outstanding person. This must be recognised, and I think it is recognised all over the world."

"He (Musk) is an active and talented businessman and he is succeeding a lot, including with the support of the American state," added Putin.

The Russian leader said Moscow planned to persevere with its own space programme despite the failure of a mission to the Moon last month.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Gareth Jones)