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Where is Putin? •

Since he met the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on March 5, Vladimir Putin has not made any public appearance. This has led to a lot of speculation in the media regarding his whereabouts. Rumors have circulated that the Russian president is either ill, or visiting a supposed lover of his, the gymnast Alina Kabaeva, who is said to have given birth to a son by Putin. The latter information has been firmly denied by Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

Putin’s absence wouldn’t have seemed so unnatural if it hadn’t been for the fact that on Friday the state-controlled Russian TV Channel Rossiya 24 broadcasted the news of Putin’s meeting with Almazbek Atambayev, the President of Kyrgyzstan, a meeting that hasn’t yet taken place. The news channel spoke of the official conference between the two leaders in the Russian past tense, as if it had already happened on this Monday, although it was known that the meeting was scheduled for the next Monday, March 16. The TV channel sent a spokesperson to apologize for this blunder, saying it was a simple mistake, but the international public opinion was reluctant to accept this explanation.

A similar thing happened on NTV channel, where images of Putin meeting Supreme Court president Vyacheslav Lebedev at the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo were broadcasted on Friday. Since no evidence showed that the images were indeed shot on Friday, rumors continued to circulate, fed by the fact that Kremlin had already tried to present old photographs of Putin as recent ones.

Now, that the actual date of the meeting is less than 24 hours away, speculations are at their highest. This, according to Leonid Bershidsky from Bloomberg News, is due to the fact that the Russian president has never dropped out of sight for such a long time in the 15 years since his first election as president.

According to Daily Mail, former FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev organized a coup d’état to “neutralize” Putin. The Russian leader is said to be alive, but “neutralized at the moment”. At least this is what pro-Kremlin chairman Geydar Dzhemal declared last night. The presence of a number of large trucks parked outside the Kremlin palace gave birth to rumors about a supposed flight attempt of the president’s, but some say that they are part of the preparation for celebrating a year from the annexation of Crimea.

image: lorries outside Kremlin (source: Daily Mail)

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