MOSCOW Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik has caused potential embarrassment for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin by describing him as worthy of respect and one of the two men he would most like to meet.
Putin's spokesman dismissed the comments as the "ravings of a lunatic" and a pro-Kremlin youth group distanced itself from Breivik after it was also praised in a manifesto he wrote before Friday's bombing and shooting spree.
But the remarks have started making waves on the blogosphere and the Russian social networking site Vkontakte, which resembles Facebook, said it had blocked access to a friend group that had voiced support for Breivik.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was quoted by newspaper Kommersant as saying Breivik "was the devil incarnate".
"He is absolutely insane and, no matter what he wrote or said, these are the ravings of a lunatic," he said. He could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters on Tuesday.
Breivik killed at least 76 people in a bomb attack in Oslo's government district and in a shooting spree at a summer camp for the ruling Labour Party's youth wing.
Putin, who has a tough-guy image after serving as president from 2000 to 2008 before becoming prime minister, is described in Breivik's 1,500-page manifesto as "a fair and resolute leader worthy of respect."
"Name one living person you would like to meet," Breivik asks rhetorically. His answer: "The Pope or Vladimir Putin."
"I'm unsure at this point whether he has the potential to be our best friend or our worst enemy," he wrote, noting that Putin would have no choice but "to openly condemn us at this point."
Breivik also in his manifesto described Japan as a model country, praising it for shying away from multiculturalism and saying he would like to meet former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, a right-leaning conservative.
MARK ON THE KREMLIN?
Breivik also called in his manifesto for Norway to create a youth movement modeled on the pro-Kremlin group Nashi. A spokeswoman for the group said it would not respond to "the opinions of a madman."
Nashi, which translates as "Our People", was set up by Kremlin officials under Putin in 2005 to as a counterweight to any popular dissent after youth activism was decisive in toppling a pro-Moscow government in Ukraine's Orange Revolution.
They have mobilized large-scale demonstrations as a show of force against Russia's opposition and regularly launch acerbic campaigns against Kremlin critics.
A Russian blogger, Chudinovandrei, said Breivik's writings left a mark on the Kremlin.
"It's as if Hitler himself materialized and called Putin's leadership worthy of his praise. How the Kremlin will ever wash its hands of this, I don't know," he wrote on blogging site Livejournal.
Blogger j_mihalych warned: "I am 95 percent sure that half-witted followers of Breivik will soon appear in Russia, and not only in Russia. Bad ideas are very contagious."
"On aggressive Russian patriots of Slavic appearance, I'll keep silent," he added.
President Dmitry Medvedev promised to crack down on any signs of racial, ethnic or religious hatred in Russia following nationalists demonstrations which saw attacks on ethnic minorities near Red Square in December. He has also criticized political extremism and called for a return to tolerant values.
(Editing by Timothy Heritage)