Russian leader, Vladimir Putin is not unstable or in bad health, the director of the CIA has said.
There has been increasing reports that Putin, who turns 70 this year, may be suffering from ill health, possibly cancer or be mentally unstable due to the way he has launched an attack against Ukraine but CIA director, William Burns said there was no evidence to suggest this, joking that he appeared "too healthy".
Burns' comments came as the US announced it would provide Ukraine with more long-range weapons after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia's military focus in Ukraine was no longer "only" the east.
"There are lots of rumours about President Putin's health and as far as we can tell he's entirely too healthy," Burns said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Wednesday, July 20.
Responding to laughter, he said that this was not a formal intelligence judgement.
Burns, who served as ambassador to Moscow, said he had been observing the Russian leader for more than two decades.
Putin is "a big believer in control, intimidation and getting even" and these traits have hardened over the last decade as his circle of advisers has contracted, the CIA chief said.
"He is convinced that his destiny as Russia's leader 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 neighbourhood and he cannot do that without controlling Ukraine."
Burns travelled to Moscow in November to warn about the serious consequences for invading Ukraine following intelligence the US had collected about Russia's plans.
But he said he left Moscow "more troubled than when I arrived".
Putin's plans were based on "profoundly flawed assumptions and some real illusions especially about Ukraine and the will to resist", Mr Burns said.
"Putin really does believe his rhetoric. I've heard him say this privately over the years that Ukraine is not a real country.
"Well, real countries fight back. And that's what the Ukrainians have done."
Russia invaded Ukraine in February, claiming falsely that Russian-speakers in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region had suffered a genocide and needed to be liberated.
Five months on, Russia has occupied parts of the east and south of the country, but failed in its original aim of capturing Kyiv .
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