Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared in public Monday for the first time since March 5, meeting Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev.
Putin met Atambayev in the Constantine Palace, outside Russia’s second city of St. Petersburg.
Putin laughed off suggestions he had been forced to lie low because of poor health, saying on Monday that life would be “boring without gossip.”
In a carefully choreographed double-act, Atambayev also vouched for the Russian leader’s health, saying that Putin “just now drove me around the grounds, he himself sat at the wheel” after they met in St Petersburg.
Putin smiled easily as he sat before television cameras in the Constantine Palace in Russia’s second city.
“It would be boring without gossip,” Putin, looking relaxed if pale, told reporters.
Putin’s absence from public view, a rare occurrence in Russia’s largely state-controlled media, had triggered a number of theories about the leader, ranging from him suffering poor health to being toppled in a palace coup by security hawks.
The Russian leader, 62, prides himself on a macho image, saying in 2008 he worked like “galley slave” to run Russia.
Since he was last seen in public, there had also been increased fears in Russia that he was the victim of an attempted coup by security organizations and the Russian army.
Israel’s former ambassador to Russia, Zvi Magen, had told Haaretz he believed “there are many signs of a coup. The movement of the army around the Kremlin indicates that there is a change in government, or that an attempt at a change in government is being carried out.”