Vladimir Putin rested myriad theories about his mysterious disappearance by meeting with Kyrgyzstan leader, Almazbek Atanbayev, in St. Petersburg palace on Monday.
Squashing rumors that ranged from ill-health to death, Russian leader Vladimir Putin emerged hale and hearty to greet the Kyrgyzstan leader for the first time he has been seen in public since March 5. Acknowledging and jokingly laying the rumor mills to rest, Atanbayev himself commented.
"Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] has just driven me around the palace, and was behind the wheel himself, so there would be fewer rumors. He's not only walking, he's driving his guests around."
What's surprising is the fact that the Russian media or the state publications did almost nothing to address or dispel these rumors. Moreover, Russian television did little to dampen speculation when it announced on Friday that the meeting between Putin and Atambayev had already taken place. They offered no video footage to corroborate the fact that Vladimir Putin was indeed fit and fine.
Matters took a dark turn when the Kremlin attempted to pass off photos as "current," of meetings that had happened days earlier. Additionally, a meeting in Astana with the president of Kazakhstan was cancelled at the last minute, with local sources initially insisting Putin had pulled out due to illness, and then strongly denying it.
Even Vladimir Putin's personal spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, merely attempted to brush off the Russian leader's extensive absence from the public eye. All the while Putin was absent, Peskov kept on insisting that the president was engaged in continual meetings and was still so strong that he was "breaking hands" with his handshake. But, on Sunday he abruptly announced "the topic is closed" offering no further clarification.
It has to be admitted; Vladimir Putin's absence and emergence was perhaps very well-timed. Putin has resurfaced right at the beginning of a week in which major celebrations are planned to mark the first anniversary of Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula. On Sunday evening, Russian television aired a rather lengthy documentary dedicated to the events a year ago.
In the film, Putin addressed the nation stating he boldly and personally took charge of the Russian armed forces active on the peninsula. He further added that he wasn't afraid of using nuclear weapons "should need arise" and that nuclear forces were on standby.
[Image Credit | Metzel Mikhail/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis]