St. Petersburg man's close friendship with Vladimir Putin - FOX 13 News

St. Petersburg man's close friendship with Vladimir Putin

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

As tensions rise in Ukraine, the world is watching Russia and Vladimir Putin's next move.

But a Pinellas County man has known him longer (and perhaps better) than just about anyone in America. Former St. Petersburg College President Carl Kuttler was Putin's partner, friend, and traveling companion.

More than 20 years ago, they worked closely together developing an exchange program, when Putin worked at St. Petersburg State University in Russia (formerly Leningrad State University).

Kuttler said Putin credited their work together for helping to drive his rise to power in Russia.

"In terms of intelligence, he's brilliant," said Kuttler. "You could talk to him about just about anything and he had done his homework."

He said Putin is a detailed planner, who leaves nothing to chance. He said cooperation, building bridges, celebrating success and diplomacy can pay off in dealing with Putin. But he also said friendships cannot be built overnight.

Click on the video to watch Craig's full report.

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