There is no intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin is in poor health, CIA Director William Burns said.
There has been unconfirmed media speculation that Putin, who turns 70 this year, is not in good health and may be suffering from cancer.
But Burns said there is no evidence to suggest such a thing, and with a laugh he said Putin looks “very healthy”.
“There are a lot of rumors about the health of President Putin and so far we can say that he is completely very healthy,” Burns said during the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
After the audience reacted with laughter to this statement, he added that this was not an official judgment of intelligence.
Burns has been the United States ambassador to Moscow and for two decades has observed and dealt with the Russian leader.
Putin is “a big believer in control, intimidation and revenge” and these traits have strengthened over the past decade as his circle of advisers has shrunk, the CIA chief said.
“He is convinced that his destiny as the leader of Russia is to restore Russia as a great power. He believes the key to doing that is to recreate a sphere of influence in Russia’s neighborhood, and he can’t do that without controlling Ukraine,” Burns added.
The CIA chief had visited Moscow last November and warned Russia of serious consequences if it invaded Ukraine, after US intelligence gathered information about Moscow’s plans. But Burns said he came back from that trip more worried than he was before he left for Russia.
In the invasion that began five months ago, Russia has managed to occupy parts of eastern and southern Ukraine, but has failed to achieve its original goal of taking control of Kiev, and has since claimed that the main objective from the beginning was the “liberation” of the eastern region of Donbass.