A former Trump advisor on Russia recalled that Putin smelled odd and neither ate nor drank at dinner

A former Trump advisor on Russia recalled that Putin smelled odd and neither ate nor drank at dinner
Russian leader Vladimir Putin "really could have done with glasses," according to Fiona Hill, a former advisor on Russia during the Trump administration.Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
  • A former Trump advisor, Fiona Hill, recently recalled a dinner encounter with Vladimir Putin.
  • She observed that Putin smelled "almost like he had stepped out of some special preparatory bath."

Fiona Hill, an advisor on Russia under President Donald Trump, has described what it was like sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at dinner, including an odd smell she says he exuded.

Hill made the remarks on BBC Sounds' "Desert Island Discs" program, during which she recounted her experience being seated within touching distance of the Russian leader.

"I took in the suits, one of the finely tailored suits, the way that the little vein pulses on the left-hand side of his face," Hill said on the episode, which aired May 8.

Besides noticing what she described as Putin's "very expensive watch," Hill also observed that the Russian leader "really could have done with glasses" because he used cards with huge words on them.

"I could read them all, cards telling him who was who and what he should say and things like this," she recalled.


Hill also observed that Putin "didn't eat or drink anything" during the meal.

Above all, however, Hill also said she took note of the Russian leader's smell.

"Now, this sounds really bizarre, but I could smell that he was freshly laundered," Hill said. "He wasn't wearing cologne, but it was almost like he had stepped out of some special preparatory bath or something, into the moment."

She added that Putin appeared to be "all in command" of the image he projected in front of others.

"I thought: 'Wow, look at this,'" Hill said. "All of this is staged. Every little element of this is staged. This is a performance."


She said Putin was also "not much of a conversationalist" and "barely gave me a glance" throughout the meal.

It's unclear when the dinner took place, though Hill told "Desert Island Discs" it happened while she was working as a national intelligence officer, which she did at the US National Intelligence Council from 2006 to 2009.

Hill is best known for having served in the Trump administration as an advisor on Russia. In recent months, as Russia appeared poised to invade Ukraine and then did so, numerous media outlets have approached her to weigh in about the former president's interactions with Putin.

In November, Hill said she thought Trump envied Putin because he wanted to rule the US "as he pleases." In January and February, Hill said Trump most likely emboldened Putin during his term and made the US look weak to Russia.

In April, Hill argued that Trump began to resemble Putin during his time as president, in terms of "political practice and predilection."