The rumor mill has kicked into high gear regarding the whereabouts and personal circumstances of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin has not been seen in public since March 5th, and purported recent photos of Putin released by Russian media have not been completely convincing.
Putin has inserted himself on the world stage with his de facto invasion of Ukraine last year, and the global media has become used to regular doses of his pugnacious belligerence about Russian manifest destiny. His disappearance from the stage is a major development, and speculation regarding health issues or even Putin’s death or a coup are circulating wildly throughout the blogosphere.
Of note, there is no proof that Putin is/was ill or that there was any crisis in Russia, and markets were apparently not disturbed by the rumors. The ruble was up a fraction in trading Monday after the central bank cut rates by one percentage point, a small rate reduction than many analysts had been anticipating.
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New photos of Putin released Friday
Until Friday, no new images of Putin had been seen since the photos of him in a March 5 meeting with the Italian prime minister. Moreover, images of Putin purportedly attending an International Woman’s Day event on March 8th were later proven to have been snapped on March 5th.
On Friday, March 13, Russia state television published several still photos of Putin in a meeting with Russian supreme court chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev. However, as noted by Business Insider, “it’s unclear if they are legitimate.”
Latest purported Putin footage
In the footage released Friday, Putin was shown in his office at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence, where he regularly holds his meetings, sitting at a table with Lebedev and chatting about judicial system reform plans.
Putin looked to be his usual self, dressed in a blue suit and tie. The video showed him nodding and smiling as Lebedev was speaking, and Putin replied briefly about the court system.
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) March 13, 2015
Canceled visit earlier this week led to Putin rumors
Putin was planning to visit Astana, the Kazakh capital, this week, but his trip was canceled without explanation, and a meeting in Moscow with a delegation of Georgian separatists South Ossetia was also called off. Of note, Reuters reported a Kazakh sourced as saying that Putin had canceled the trip because of illness.
As reported by ValueWalk, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters on Thursday that Putin was in good health and working per his usual schedule. Peskov also told a Moscow radio station on Thursday that the president was “absolutely” healthy, adding that the president’s handshake was still so strong it could “break your hand.”
The cancellation of appointments has, however, led to much speculation on Russian social media. Not surprisingly, the state-controlled mainstream Russian press steered clear of the subject.
Putin press secretary: “No reason to worry”
On Thursday, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, commented to Reuters that there is “no reason to worry” and “everything is fine”. Peskov also told Reuters that President Putin “has meetings all the time. He has meetings today, tomorrow. I don’t know which ones we will make public.”
Peskov has not communicated with the media yet on Friday.