Vladimir Putin has laughed off speculation about his health as he reappeared in public since after ten days.
“Life would be boring without gossip,” the Russian president told Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev at talks in St Petersburg.
Vladimir Putin, 62, appeared relaxed and smiled before the television cameras.
His disappearance from public view had sparked rumors that he might have fallen ill, died, been removed in a coup, or once again become a father.
A brief video of Vladimir Putin’s meeting with his Kyrgyz counterpart at the Constantine Palace in Russia’s second city was broadcast by state television without sound.
Asked by reporters about the speculation on his health, Vladimir Putin replied: “It would be boring without gossip.”
Almazbek Atambayev, for his part, said Vladimir Putin had driven him around the palace for 20 minutes before the meeting.
“I can confirm that he’s in excellent form,” Almazbek Atambayev was quoted by one journalist as saying.
Vladimir Putin’s last public appearance was on March 5 when he met Italian PM Matteo Renzi.
Last week, Vladimir Putin cancelled a number of scheduled events, including a visit to Kazakhstan that was due to take place on March 12-13, and the signing of an agreement with South Ossetia.
As speculation about Vladimir Putin’s disappearance mounted, the hashtag #Putinumer (#Putinisdead) trended on Twitter. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was forced to counter questions about each rumor, dismissing them as “March madness”.
“So everyone has now seen the paralyzed president captured by a general who has just returned from Switzerland where he was delivering a baby?” Dmitry Peskov asked journalists sarcastically on March 16.
Vladimir Putin’s reappearance coincides with the first anniversary of a controversial referendum in Crimea, which Russia used as justification for annexing the Ukrainian peninsula.
[youtube vi6E-hlKZCw 650]