Vladimir Putin has cancelled a series of scheduled appointments and meetings amid mounting speculation surrounding his failure to appear in public since July 1.
The last time the Russian president made a public appearance was at a summit in Finland, in which he warned the Kremlin could take action if the country joined Nato.
According to Russian news channel RBC, Mr Putin cancelled a meeting on tourism in Altai on 5 July, postponing it for an “indefinite period”.
When RBC tried to find out why, the leader's “assistant receptionist” said he was on a business trip and would return on Monday.
He also failed to arrive to the opening ceremony he was supposed to attend on Wednesday at VI International Sports Games for the Children of Asia in Yakutia.
This was blamed on the President having “a specific schedule that has the ability to change”.
The President has also cancelled meetings on 7 July in Novogorod where he was due to visit the production site of Akron, a metal and mining company.
The various cancellations had already sparked rumours as to the President’s whereabouts, and the Kremlin is yet to address the matter.
However, according to online paper Gazeta.ru, Mr Putin’s absences are related to current relationships with Turkey and unfolding problems in Abkhazia – one of the areas of Georgia that declared itself an independent state in 2008 with the support of Russia.
The disputed region’s president, Raul Khajimba, said anti-government forces had put Abkhazia on the brink of “chaos and degredation” after protesters attempted to storm government buildings.
A source “close to the Kremlin” told Gazeta: “The President wants to focus and not be distracted. Regional travel will be moved to August - September, closer to the election.”
Rumours abounded the last time the Russian President vanished from the public eye for a few days, back in March 2015, providing a Tolstoyan compendium of stories explaining his absence.
The lengthy list of reasons included suggestions he was dead, had been overthrown, had a bad back, that his alleged secret girlfriend was having an alleged secret baby, and the theory that Mr Putin had been recovering from plastic surgery to preserve his youthful good looks.
Reuters reported at the time that the president was ill, but this was refuted by the Kremlin.
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