“I absolutely would save Mr. Putin if he were drowning. I'd like to think that if anybody is out there drowning, I'm going to save them,” said Obama at a joint press conference with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye in Seoul.
Obama added that he grew up in Hawaii, where he “used to be a pretty good swimmer.”
In an interview last week, Putin was asked if he thought Obama would save him if he was drowning.
“I don’t think I have close personal relationship with Obama. I think Obama is a courageous and good person and he would for sure save me,” Putin responded, according to reports.
Obama on Friday, though, also pressed the Russian leader to find a way to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine.
The president said he believed Putin would make the right choice for Russia — aware that further sanctions from the U.S. and international community would hurt Moscow.
“Tens of billions of dollars of capital fleeing Russia poses a problem for Russia’s long-term interests. Russia being isolated so that no businessman or woman with any sense are going to want to invest there — that's a problem for Russia’s long-term interests,” said Obama.
“President Putin is not a stupid man and I think recently acknowledged that this has already had an impact,” he continued.
In a call late Friday with European leaders, Obama and his counterparts pledged to work together to impose further costs on Russia if it failed to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.