Joe Biden apparently has a startling explanation for why the crisis in Ukraine is escalating. Vladimir Putin has no soul.
Biden came to the worrying conclusion after meeting with the Russian president at the Kremlin in 2011.
The US Vice President got close to Putin — so close, in fact, that the two nearly touched noses – and when he looked into Putin's eyes he said, "Mr Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul."
"He looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another.’”
The bizarre exchange happened during Biden's 2011 trip to Russia, a few years after the administration "reset" relations with Russia, according to an exclusive interview with The New Yorker.
Biden's assessment is in stark contrast to that of former US President George W Bush, who famously said after his first meeting with Putin in 2001: "I looked the man in the eye ... I was able to get a sense of his soul."
Soul or not, Putin is coming under increasing pressure from world leaders in the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last week.
Biden's comments were published as Western powers expressed outrage with Russia over the downing last week of the passenger jet over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists. All 298 people aboard died.
The United States and other nations blame the rebels for shooting down the plane and they have demanded that Russia and its president. They also have expressed disgust over the rebels' mishandling of victims' bodies at the crash site.
Russia has released what it claims is new evidence that Ukrainian warplanes and a US satellite lead to the crash of MH17, as it faces mounting global fury over the tragedy.
Four days after the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 crashed in eastern Ukraine, the international community and the families of the 298 people on board who died are no closer to learning what happened.
Ukraine and the West have presented clear evidence indicating that pro-Russian separatists shot down the passenger jet with a Russian-supplied Buk missile system.
But in a new statement from the Russian military, Moscow has again tried to shift the narrative away from the Kremlin's doorstep, pushing the blame instead on the West.
In direct contrast to every other country's response to the disaster, Russia's Ministry of Defence claimed it saw MH17 detour from its route at the same time a Ukrainian warplane flew overhead and a US satellite flew over Ukraine.
But speaking after the latest accusations, David Cameron insisted that Ukraine had no missile systems in range at the time that MH17 crashed, while President Barack Obama insisted President Vladimir Putin had to “pivot away” from the narrative that anyone other than pro-Russian fighters were to blame.
Putin shows no sign of abandoning the separatists, however, as fighting flared anew near the site of the crash.
Russia, under intense international pressure over its arming of insurgents blamed by the West for firing the missile which struck the passenger aircraft, last night backed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in the area to allow a full international inquiry.
Today, Russia called for the investigation into the downing of the plane to be led by the "international community" and not Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the pro-Russian rebels blamed for shooting down the plane have given the black box flight recorders to Malaysian officials in Donetsk in a bizarre late-night ceremony.
It comes as the bodies of flight victims began a long journey back to the Dutch city where they boarded the downed airliner almost five days ago.