Vladimir Putin smelt like he’d “stepped out of a special preparatory bath” into a “staged performance” according to a former White House adviser who met the man himself.

The revelations were made by Dr Fiona Hill, an expert of Russian politics, on a recent episode of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.

Despite her expertise in Russian affairs, Dr Hill, who has advised multiple US administrations on the Kremlin, including George W Bush and Donald Trump, said she was met by some surprises when seated next to the Russian leader at a meeting between Washington and Moscow officials.

“I noticed he didn’t eat anything,” she said. “This sounds really bizarre, but I could smell he was freshly laundered.

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Putin ‘didn’t eat anything’ and smelt like he was ‘freshly laundered’

“It was almost like he’d stepped out of some sort of preparatory bath into the moment.

“I just thought ‘every element of this is staged. This is a performance’.”

Dr Hill also spoke of other strange elements of the meeting, adding: “At the time I was actually working for the US Government… I sat next to [Putin] and I thought ‘why am I seated next to him?’

“Was it because they thought I was like M (Judi Dench’s character in James Bond)? I was kind of channelling my inner fantasies.

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“Then I thought ‘am I the least likely person to stab him with a fork?’.

“Turns out it was nothing of the sort. I was later told by the person sitting on the other side of him, one of his press people, that it was because I am a ‘nondescript woman’.

Dr Hill said she was so close to Putin, she could have touched him
Dr Hill said she was so close to Putin, she could have touched him

“‘Neither too old or too young, you are not fancily dressed. You’ve got no cleavage. You are just kind of there.'”

Dr Hill spoke of how she was so close to Putin, she could have touched him.

She said: “If I’d have reached out my hand ever so slightly I would have touched him. He had a finely tailored suit, a little vein pulsated on the side of his face.

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“I noticed right away he, like the rest of us, could really have done with glasses because he had these giant cards about who was who and what he should say.”

Asked if she spoke directly with Putin, Dr Hill replied: “Not really, no, he is not much of a conversationalist. At the end of it he stood up and said ‘all ze best’.”

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