Vladimir Putin Reappears In Public After Ten Day Absence
After not being seen in public for nearly two weeks, which led to rumors of everything from health problems, to a coup attempt, to his becoming a father, Vladimr Putin appeared in public and seemed to put those rumors to rest:
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin resurfaced Monday, smiling and looking his normal self after a 10-day absence from public view that fueled a wave of rumors about his health.
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, who met with Putin in St. Petersburg’s ornate Konstantin Palace on Monday, referred to the swirling speculation about Putin by noting that the Russian leader was in good shape. He said Putin drove him around the palace’s park before the talks, adding that “the president of Russia not only walks, but speeds around.”
“It would be dull without gossip,” Putin retorted with a smile.
The 62-year-old Russian leader was last seen in public on March 5, when he hosted Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The Kremlin insisted that he continued holding official meetings after that, and released photos and video of Putin at meetings on national television, but Russian media suggested the images had actually been shot much earlier.
Putin’s decision to abruptly postpone a trip to Kazakhstan planned for last week fueled speculation that he was unwell or isolated by a palace coup. A Swiss newspaper claimed that Putin had traveled to Switzerland, where it said his reported girlfriend — former Olympic gold-winning gymnast Alina Kabayeva — had given birth to their baby. The Kremlin has denied all those allegations.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov greeted reporters Monday with sarcastic remarks: “So, have you seen the president paralyzed and seized by the generals? He has just come back from Switzerland, where he attended the delivery.”
Asked if Putin’s condition required treatment by an osteopath, the spokesman retorted: “Yes, the osteopath was with the generals.”
The sarcastic comments appeared to reflect the Kremlin’s dismay with the rumors and its inability to stop them. On a more serious note, Peskov added that the Kremlin has grown tired of refuting speculation about Putin’s condition.
“The more we talk about it, the more intense (the speculation) becomes,” he said.
In today’s media age, Putin’s disappearance was odd, and it brought back memories of the 1980s when Soviet leaders were seldom seen in public for what we would later learn are serious health problems. Based on the footage from today, it doesn’t appear that there was anything seriously wrong with Putin — perhaps he just had the flu — but the fact that the speculation returned to that kind of Soviet-era paranoia says a lot about the kind of world Putin has created in Moscow.