Nigel Farage has dismissed criticism of his praise for Vladimir Putin - insisting the Russian President deserves more respect than David Cameron.
The Ukip leader came under fire after he named Putin as the premier he admired most, telling GQ magazine that while he did not approve of his politics, his handling of the Syria crisis had been "brilliant".
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg branded the comments "grotesque" and "extreme".
"I just think it is utterly grotesque that Nigel Farage apparently admires - and that was the question to him, 'Who do you admire?' - admires someone, Vladimir Putin, who has been the chief sponsor and protector of one of the most brutal dictators on the face of the planet, President Assad," the Liberal Democrat leader told a press conference.
"And to then express his admiration by saying that he thinks that Vladimir Putin has played it all as if it's a game. This isn't a game. This is thousands upon thousands of people being killed and brutalised and murdered and chased from their homes who we are now taking into our country.
"Women and children who have been sexually abused, who have been physically abused, and we are thankfully acting in a generous-hearted way to provide them refuge.
"And he admires the man who has allowed, more than almost any other world leaders, that to happen?
"I just think if your hatred of all things to do with the European Union leads to such a morally perverse conclusion - that you admire the one leader in the world who could have reined in President Assad - it really shows quite how extreme his views have become."
Speaking at a Chatham House event this afternoon Mr Farage stressed that he had made the remarks months ago.
"I said it just after Parliament had voted not to go to war in Syria, thank God," he said.
"I think one or two of the things that Putin said did actually change the debate in this country.
"I said I don't like him, I wouldn't trust him, wouldn't want to live in his country.
"But compared with the kids who run foreign policy in this country I have got more respect for him than our lot."
Asked in the GQ interview which current world leader he admired most, Mr Farage replied: "As an operator, but not as a human being, I would say Putin.
"The way he played the whole Syria thing. Brilliant. Not that I approve of him politically. How many journalists in jail now?"
The comments emerged after the Ukip leader said during a televised debate with Mr Clegg that the European Union had "blood on its hands" for encouraging rebellion in Ukraine, Syria and Libya.