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Putin, Said to Be ‘Perfectly Healthy,’ Is Also Nowhere to Be Seen

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Oh where oh where has the great leader gone.....?

Putin, Said to Be ‘Perfectly Healthy,’ Is Also Nowhere to Be Seen
MOSCOW — Where’s Putin?
It was the question preoccupying Moscow and much of Russia on Friday, as speculation mounted about why President Vladimir V. Putin had not been seen in public since last week.
He canceled a trip to Kazakhstan; postponed a treaty signing with representatives from South Ossetia who were reportedly told not to bother to come to Moscow; and, unusually, was absent from a meeting of top officials from the F.S.B., Russia’s domestic intelligence service.
The last confirmed public sighting was at a meeting with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy on March 5 — although the Kremlin would have citizens think otherwise.
Given that the Kremlin borrows all manner of items from the Soviet playbook these days, there appeared to be an attempt to doctor the president’s timetable to show that all was well.
The daily newspaper RBC dug into Mr. Putin’s schedule as reported on the usually reliable presidential website, Kremlin.ru. The newspaper reported that a meeting with the governor of the northwestern region of Karelia, depicted as taking place on Wednesday, actually occurred on March 4, when a local website there wrote about it. A meeting with a group of women shown as having occurred on Sunday actually happened on March 6, RBC said.
On Friday, the Kremlin released video and posted a still picture of Mr. Putin meeting with the president of Russia’s Supreme Court, but since the video was not live, questions lingered.
The simplest explanation appeared to come from an unidentified government source in Kazakhstan, who apparently did not get the memo, and told Reuters “it looks like he has fallen ill.”
Since half of Moscow seemed to be suffering from a particularly devastating strain of flu that knocks people on their backs for days at a time, that seemed the most likely explanation.
But there also appeared to be a certain reluctance to concede that Russia’s leader, who cultivates a macho image of being in good health at age 62, might have been felled like a mere mortal.
Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told any news media outlet that called (and most did) that his boss was in fine fettle, holding meetings and attending to his duties. “Perfectly healthy,” Mr. Peskov told one news agency. “Fine,” he told another.
Mr. Putin’s predecessor, Boris N. Yeltsin, used to disappear frequently as well. But that was either because of drinking bouts or, in at least one instance, an undisclosed heart attack. His spokesman settled on a standard explanation that Mr. Yeltsin still had a firm handshake but was busy working on documents.
Mr. Peskov referenced that wryly this week, saying on the radio station Echo of Moscow that Mr. Putin’s grip could break hands and that the president was working “exhaustively” with documents.
Given the uneasy mood in Moscow — stemming both from Russia’s involvement in the war in Ukraine and the Feb. 27 killing of the opposition leader Boris Y. Nemtsov just steps from the Kremlin — much darker explanations have emerged.
Andrei Illarionov, a former presidential adviser, wrote a blog post suggesting that Mr. Putin had been overthrown by hard-liners in a palace coup and that Russians could anticipate an announcement soon saying that he was taking a well-deserved rest. Conspiracy theorists bombarded Facebook, Twitter and the rest of social media along similar veins.
Early in his presidency, Mr. Putin dropped out of sight when the submarine Kursk sank in 2000 and again two years later when terrorists seized a Moscow theater and took hundreds of hostages. But since those two crises, which spawned all manner of questions about his leadership skills, he has been very much an almost daily public presence.
Now, all eyes are on Monday, when Mr. Putin is scheduled to meet with the president of Kyrgyzstan in St. Petersburg.
Correction: March 13, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of the Italian prime minister. He is Matteo Renzi, not Renzo. It also misstated the year the submarine Kursk sank. It was 2000, not 2002.

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There is an air of funny business with Putin "disappearing" a few days after his critic, Boris Nemtsov was murdered on the streets.

Russia charges two Chechen men over assassination of Putin critic Boris Nemtsov
Five men were behind bars Sunday either charged or suspected in the killing of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, but details remained unclear in the case that has shaken Russia’s marginalized and struggling opposition movement.
The five appeared in a Moscow court, where two of them were charged in connection with the shooting of Mr. Nemtsov as he walked across a bridge near the Kremlin on Feb. 27. The other three were remanded to jail pending the filing of charges, which Russian law says must be done within 10 days.
All five are from Chechnya or other parts of the restive North Caucasus, according to news agencies. Their origin raises a potentially sensitive issue, given the significant animosity for Caucasus groups among ethnic Russians.
Chechnya suffered two intense wars over the past two decades between Russian forces and separatist rebels increasingly under the sway of fundamentalist Islam. That reinforced the stereotype among many Russians of Chechens as violent extremists.
Mr. Kadyrov, the current Chechen president, has himself imposed many Islamic rules on Chechnya, including the wearing of headscarves by women, but is also a vehement loyalist of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has blamed Mr. Nemtsov’s killing on Western security services.
Edited by xxClosedxx

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