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CIA director dismisses reports of Putin being in ill health

William Burns, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, speaks to the Senate Intelligence Committee during a hearing examining worldwide threats on Thursday, March 10, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden
William Burns, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, speaks to the Senate Intelligence Committee during a hearing examining worldwide threats on Thursday, March 10, 2022.

CIA Director William Burns shot down speculation about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ill health, though he said Putin has acted on “some real illusions” in waging war on Ukraine.

The Kremlin has previously played down public conjecture about the Russian leader’s mental wellbeing after he invaded Ukraine.

“There are lots of rumors about President Putin’s health, and as far as we can tell, he’s entirely too healthy,” Burns said in a talk at the Aspen Security Forum, moderated by NBC News’ Chief Washington Correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

Burns was quick to qualify his comments as “not a formal intelligence judgment,” adding that despite his good health, Putin did seem to be operating under flawed assumptions.

“His views have hardened… but he’s got his own way of looking at reality. And as we could see in the first stages of this war, it was based on some profoundly flawed assumptions and some real illusions.”

Unsubstantiated rumors have circulated that Putin is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, cancer or dementia — or that he uses body doubles to mask any weakness.

In February, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) tweeted that “something is off” with Putin. Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki told ABC News that the Russian president was “manufacturing threats that don’t exist.” Reuters reported that former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called him “irrational.”

But Russian officials have routinely denied allegations of Putin’s ill health.

On Thursday, a Kremlin spokesperson said “everything is fine” with the Russian president’s health, according to Reuters.

“These are nothing but fakes,” the spokesperson said of the rumors about Putin’s instability.

Tags Andrea Mitchell cia director Kremlin putin russia Russia-Ukraine war russian invasion of ukraine ukraine Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin William Burns William Burns
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