Putin In Absentia, Kremlin Battling Rumor Mill Over President’s Health

Where Is Putin? Health Concerns Over Russian President

He was last seen March 5. Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, at the Kremlin and since then has disappeared from the public eye. The question on everyone’s lips is, where has Putin gone?

The mystery over Putin’s whereabouts has been further intensified given the Kremlin’s decision to post photos to its website on certain dates, only for it to be revealed that the events depicted took place days earlier. As the Daily Mail reports, an apparent March 11 meeting between President Putin and the Governor of Karelia, Alexander Khudilainen, actually occurred March 5, and a supposed March 10 meeting in Moscow with the Governor of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Dmitry Kobylkin, had actually never taken place between the Siberian official and the Russian President.

As The Inquisitr reported, as well as meeting with Prime Minister Renzi, before his disappearance Putin admitted in a clip from an upcoming documentary, Homeward Bound, that he had given the order for the annexing of the Crimea. No release date has yet been given for the Rossiya-1 program, but Putin’s disappearance comes at a challenging time for Russia’s President.

With the economy in turmoil due to US and EU sanctions in response to the action taken regarding the Crimea and Putin’s arming of Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, in addition to the falling price of oil, and more recent accusations that his government had a role to play in the murder of key opposition figure, Boris Nemtsov, at the end of February, for which Nemtsov’s daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova, holds Putin “politically responsible” – some might say it’s no wonder the 62-year old President has gone to ground.

Rumors over what might be keeping Putin from the public eye have included a stroke, plastic surgery, a recurrence of his bad back, and even pancreatic cancer. As The Washington Post reports, logging on to Twitter, hashtags #PutinIsDead and #WhereIsPutin are running amok with speculation. Yet, as also reported by the paper, this is seemingly normal in an authoritarian regime. Last year, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un disappeared for a few weeks and reappeared without explanation. Quite possibly, the same shall happen in Russia.

However, as The Telegraph reports, Putin’s Press Secretary, Dmitri Peskov, has been working feverishly to quash all rumors of the President’s demise, claiming Putin’s handshake is “still so strong it could break your hand”.

“As soon as the sun comes and it starts to smell of spring, these things flare up. Someone imagines [Rosneft oil head, Igor] Sechin’s resigning, someone the government, and someone doesn’t see the president on the television for a few days.”

Given that Putin cancelled Wednesday’s meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko in Kazakhstan, and failed to make an appearance at Thursday’s annual FSB (Federal Security Service) meeting for high-ranking officers, the Kremlin has yet to appease Russia and the world that everything is okay with the President.

Granted, this is not the first time Putin has been physically afflicted. In 2012, the President was seen limping, prompting speculation over potential problems with long-haul flights. Yet, Putin is a leader who models himself as an all-round action man: black belt in judo, ice hockey player, bare-chested horse rider, hang-glider – the list is endless. Perhaps, simply, his renowned bad back has returned to torment him as news arises that the key suspect in the Nemtsov murder admitted to confessing under torture and threat of death. Or, perhaps, as his Press Secretary advises, the Russian President is busy working behind the scenes.

The mystery continues.

[Image courtesy of WPA Pool/Getty Images]