Putin’s Spokesman: Russian Leader in ‘Really Perfect’ Health

MOSCOW (AP) -

Speculation is swirling in Russia about the state of Vladimir Putin’s health, as an unusual spell outside the public eye fuels the rumor mill. On Thursday, the Russian president’s spokesman sought to quash such talk, saying in an interview that Putin’s health is “really perfect.”

Dmitry Peskov told The Associated Press that Putin has a busy agenda in the coming days, including some international meetings. He said that next week the president is set to make a trip to Kazakhstan, which had been planned for this week but abruptly postponed.

The 62-year old Russian leader was last seen in public on March 5, when he hosted Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi before falling out of sight for a week — a highly unusual absence. The Kremlin insisted that the president had a few other official meetings in the following days, but some Russian media contested that and claimed they had actually taken place earlier.

Peskov rejected the allegations, and insisted that the Russian leader was keeping his usual busy schedule.

“There is absolutely no reason for any doubts about the state of his health,” Peskov told the AP. “His health is really perfect, everything is OK with him, and he’s working in accordance with his traditionally overloaded working schedule.”

Putin’s conspicuous disappearance from the public eye comes at a turbulent moment in Russia’s domestic politics. Last week, Russia’s security agencies arrested five men suspected of involvement in the Feb. 27 killing of top opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on a bridge near the Kremlin.

European Union lawmakers on Thursday adopted a resolution demanding an international investigation into the killing of Nemstov, calling it the “most significant political murder in recent Russian history.” The resolution said that Russia is acting “contrary to a functioning democracy” and that government propaganda is turning the nation into a “state of repression, hate speech and fear.”