Our long international nightmare (daydream?) is over—Vladimir Putin is back in action.

Putin’s 10 day absence from the public eye launched the international media into a frenzy of rumors, speculation, and justified nervousness on the part of Putin’s political enemies.

Some speculated that he had fallen ill, others that he had died. Still others believed that he was in Switzerland to celebrate the birth of his love child with former gymnast Alina Kabaeva.

Yet today he resurfaced, by all accounts looking bright eyed and bushy tailed—and amused at the rumor mill he set in motion.

From The Times of Israel:

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atanbayev, who met with Putin Monday in St. Petersburg’s ornate Konstantin Palace, referred to the swirling rumors about Putin’s condition, saying that the Russian leader is in good shape. Atanbayev said that Putin drove him around the palace’s park before the talks, adding that “the president of Russia not only walks, but speeds around.”

“It would be dull without gossip,” Putin retorted with a smile.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov greeted reporters Monday with sarcastic remarks: “So, have you seen the president paralyzed and seized by the generals? He has just come back from Switzerland where he attended the delivery.”

Peskov added on a more serious note that the Kremlin has grown tired of refuting speculation about Putin’s condition. “The more we talk about it, the more intense (the speculation) becomes,” he said.

The chatter started last week, after Putin cancelled a number of public events, including an important trip to Kazakhstan. His reappearance today coordinates with the one year anniversary of the controversial Crimean referendum that Putin used an excuse to annex key areas in Ukraine.

On Sunday night, a pre-recorded interview with Putin informed the world that Russia had its nuclear arsenal on alert last year, following the upheaval in Crimea:

Asked if Russia was prepared to bring its nuclear weapons into play, Putin said: “We were ready to do it. I talked with colleagues and told them that this (Crimea) is our historic territory, Russian people live there, they are in danger, we cannot leave them.

“It wasn’t us who committed a coup, it was the nationalists and people with extreme beliefs.”

But this was the worst-case scenario, he added, in the documentary broadcast on state-run channel Rossiya One. “I don’t think this was actually anyone’s wish — to turn it into a world conflict.”

Moscow hasn’t indicated when that interview was originally taped, but the fact that it aired on Sunday—before Putin’s formal return to the spotlight—is a clear signal to those defending Ukrainian sovereignty that no matter where he is, Putin is watching.


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