Russian state television aired what it said was footage of President Vladimir Putin working at his residence outside Moscow on Friday, a first appearance since he dropped out of sight days ago, triggering rumors he was ill or sidelined by internal conflict.
In the footage, Putin was shown in his office at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence, where he conducts many of his meetings, sitting across a table from Supreme Court head Vyacheslav Lebedev and talking about plans to reform the judicial system.
Dressed in grey suit and a blue patterned tie, he looked in no way different from usual. In the brief footage, he was shown nodding and smiling as Lebedev spoke and could be heard saying a few words about the court system.
A visit by Putin to the Kazakh capital, which was to have taken plan this week, was canceled with no official explanation, while a meeting in Moscow with a delegation from the Georgian separatist region of South Ossetia was also called off.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters on Thursday that Putin, who is 62, was in good health and was working as usual.
However, the cancellation of engagements sparked feverish speculation on Russian social media - though most mainstream organizations, which are deferential to the Kremlin, steered clear of the issue.
The rumors fed into an atmosphere among Moscow's political classes that was already more than usually febrile because of the conflict in Ukraine, and the Feb. 27 killing of opposition figure Boris Nemtsov.
At long last things seem to be getting interesting:
The Russian state media often serves as a barometer for the direction the Kremlin intends to take the country. If one watches Russian federal channels for a while, it’s not that difficult to see how the people have been warmed to the idea that the West is a threat and already active against Russia from the Ukrainian side of the border. Thousands of Russians would rise up in a heartbeat to go to war to defend their fatherland, if the Kremlin gives the word.
As it turns out, the tension within Putin’s political system has become serious. Given the situation, and the strain of the ever-intensifying Cold War-type standoff between Russia and the West, it’s unlikely that the missing Russian leader is merely on a shirtless horseback riding expedition, taking some time off at a spa or getting another round of botox injections.
Andrey Illarionov, now a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C. and former economic policy advisor to Putin, suggests in his blog that the absent Putin indicates a palace coup. In the past, Illarionov had correctly forecast Putin’s military operation in Ukraine, although some of his predictions have not come to pass (yet), such as Russian attempts to claim power over Baltic States and Finland. Today, Illarionov suggests that Putin’s military and financial base may have come to a paralysis and that Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, will soon surface as a new leading public figure.
According to Putin’s spokesperson, Peskov, there is “No need to worry, everything is all right. He has work meetings all the time, only not all of these meetings are public,” The president is “absolutely healthy,” he added, and “his handshake is so strong he breaks hands with it.” All of that may be true—or not. For now, the world must wait and see what happens next.
Much as I hunger to see his exit from the world stage, I think it more likely that Putin will soon re-emerge in his usual rancid condition. [Note: some of the stories about Putin's disappearance have shown multiple photos of his face, and to my eye he seems to be ageing rather badly for a man of 62].
Today, the Kremlin released an announcement and photo about a meeting between Putin and the chief of Russia's supreme court, Vyacheslav Lebedev. However, Putin has not yet been seen in public, or even in new video.
So it's possible that Putin is in fact dead/hospitalized/looking-too-bad-to-be-seen-in-public or what have you, and that Lebedev is considered a good enough friend to keep the secret. The Friday timing is rather convenient, because official meetings will not usually be expected on the weekend. So by bringing in one more co-conspirator (Lebedev), suspicions can be calmed (at least a little) until Monday.
But the fact remains, that Putin has NOT been seen by independent witnesses for 8 days now.
Putin has vanished from public view twice before (the second time less than 3 years ago), so this is not unprecedented. On one occasion he "came out" with heavy makeup that didn't fully conceal a bad bruise on his face.
My bet, is that Vlad the Terrible is still with us. When the news of the death of Alexander the Great reached Athens, one of that city-state's politicians was skeptical (in those days news from distant lands took a long time, and was hit-or-miss), saying, "if it were true, the whole world would stink of his corpse."
In that instance, the politician was wrong -- Alexander really was dead.
It may take some days, or even weeks, before we know for certain whether Putin is still alive and in power. If indeed he is, his absence will never be explained (like his previous absences).
Instead, let's look at what we do know:
 Putin has concentrated greater power in his hands than any Russian ruler in more than 200 years -- even Stalin! [I realized this almost a year ago, when reports emerged that Putin decided to steal Crimea WITHOUT CONSULTING HIS MINISTERS. If the more-than-Stalin comparison seems unlikely to you, it isn't just mine: F. Hill and C. G. Gaddy, academic researchers and author's of "Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin" (2013) reached the same conclusion.] The tsars of the 19th century were constantly limited by the power of the Orthodox church and the landed nobility. The Soviet premiers had to deal with politburo, central committee, and the powerful ministries. But Putin acts alone.
 As a consequence of , Russia's stability and security depend entirely on the One Great Man.
 Russia has NO PLAN for succession of power. By law, PM Medvedev would assume the office of president on Putin's death (or other retirement from office before term) -- but the OFFICE is not the same as the POWER. Who believes that Medvedev could, or would, exercise the power Putin now holds?
 Those who know Putin say that he is extremely jealous of this power. For this reason, if people start talking about some man in the hierarchy as a credible successor to Putin, then that man's career is doomed.
So there we have it: the world's largest country, with the world's largest nuclear arsenal, has the same pathetic dependency on a single person, as an infant has on it's mother's breast.
Putin has methodically, relentlessly, and comprehensively destroyed all of the machinery of democracy Russia established in the 1990s. I don't know anybody in Russia who thinks that Russia could now hold a genuine election.
Very specifically: Ukrainians, who have much more strength and courage than Russians do, have defended government by the people, and sacrificed their lives for it. Because of this, their democracy is strong enough that when their parliament ejected the president from his office, Ukraine was able to appoint a decent and civilized temporary president, and conduct orderly, open and clean campaigning and the fair election of a new president in about 90 days.
What hope does Russia have, to accomplish what Ukraine did?
In some ways, Russia is much better than North Korea, but in others it is much worse.
Russia's soul is infested with cancer. The world can see, how it looks when a once-great country decays from within.
In diseased Russia, where most of the populace cravenly agreed to surrender their right of self-government in exchange for stability and rising incomes, people are painfully aware of their infantile dependency on the New Tsar.
In such an environment, an event like the vanishing from public view of the Dear Leader sets off strong waves of emotion and rumor -- rather like an earthquake.
It's fascinating, and more than a little entertaining, to watch the rumors (and, with Russia's famous dark humor, many morbid jokes) spread in response.
There's a jolly Russian-language site putinumer.com (registered in Hong Kong). "Putin umer" is Russian for "Putin died". At the top of the page are the words "Did Putin die?" with a button beneath labeled "Check". When you push the button, you get one of a numerous negative responses. The first answer I got was, "No, Moscow does not stink from this" -- just like the Athenian politician 2300 years ago :)
My second answer was, "Look out the window. Are people rejoice, leading dances, starting fireworks? No? This means not yet dead."
The sad thing is, Russia has nothing resembling a normal, functioning government. Accordingly, Russians cannot expect the continuity and stability that most governments can provide when there is a change of leadership.
A piece by Leonid Bershidsky, explaining why only a dictatorship responds as Russia has to the disappearance of its president from public view: http://goo.gl/gbZSZh
If the Russian government is going to be in trouble,,, perhaps they should meet with the West and discuss ways that we could help?? I suggest a neutral meeting place,,,,, like somewhere in the Bikini Islands!!
I was worried about something like this could happen. Putin is the master of diversion,,, he says one thing and does another,,,, and the west buys it hook line and stinker. He lets everyone believe that he is sick or dead,,,, then when everyone starts to relax,,, he strikes.
“Âñå ñîòðóäíèêè ðîññèéñêîãî ïîñîëüñòâà â Ëîíäîíå èç ÷èñëà îôèöåðîâ è ðàçëè÷íûõ àòòàøå çà ïîñëåäíèå íåñêîëüêî äíåé ïîêèíóëè Âåëèêîáðèòàíèþ Translated: All employees of the Russian Embassy in London from the various officers and attaches the last few days have left the UK Twitter : https://twitter.com/adept_istiny/status/576069261615042560 SQ NOTE;THERE ARE RUMORS FLOWING OUT OF MOSCOW WHICH SUGGEST THAT ALLL HIGH RANKING RUSSIANS ARE BEING TAKEN TO UNDERGROUND COMMAND CENTERS-IF PUTIN IS IN THE 'YAMANTAU MOUNTAIN COMPLEX'-IT’S AS SERIOUS AS IT CAN GET BEFORE MUSHROOM CLOUDS DOT THE HORIZON “
More Swiss media confirmed Saturday that Vladimir Putin is the father of a bouncing baby girl, giving the lie to the Kremlin’s determined efforts to deny the story.
The Russian president’s much younger girlfriend, Alina Kabaeva, delivered the girl “at least a couple of weeks ago” at the Clinica Sant’Anna in Sorengo, Switzerland, a suburb of Lugano, says Corriere Del Ticino, a Swiss newspaper.
But the 62-year-old Putin was not present for his daughter’s birth, according to that newspaper and other Swiss reports.
The local branch of Swiss broadcaster RSI reported that Kabaeva, 31, booked two rooms at the ultra-private clinic, which caters to the rich and famous.
Kabaeva had also been seen recently in the main plaza in Lugano, Switzerland’s biggest Italian-speaking city, another paper, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, reported.
And an unusual number of Russian-registered cars were spotted around Lugano earlier this month, local site Ticino News reported.
The stories add details to a report of the birth in the Swiss tabloid Blick. But the new Swiss reports contradicted Blick’s claim that Putin jetted to Switzerland to witness his daughter’s birth, which it said was last week.