Vladimir Putin has not been seen in public for a week, and that's been long enough to prompt worldwide speculation surrounding his whereabouts.
Let's take a look at the main theories into what's happened to the Russian president:
Putin postponed a trip to Kazakhstan last week, with a government source in Astana telling Reuters that he was unwell.
He's seriously ill
A day after the Kazakhstan summit was postponed, Putin, 62, missed the annual meeting of officers from the Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB for which Putin himself worked. This led to fresh speculation that he had suffered a stroke, was undergoing surgery or had in fact, died. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on the record that wasn't the case, and that in fact Putin is so hale and hearty that "his handshake is so strong he breaks hands with it".
He's been deposed
Writing in the Daily Mail, Will Stewart claims that Putin is "'alive' but neutralised'", with security chiefs taking over.
He's welcoming a new arrival
Swiss media have reported that Putin, who separated from his wife Lyudmila last year, is with his gymnast girlfriend Alina Kabaeva, who gave birth to their child at a private clinic several weeks ago. Peskov batted this one away as well, telling Forbes Russia: "Not true. I am planning to appeal to people who have money to organise a competition for the best journalistic hoax.”
He's in the US
White House spokesman Eric Schultz was asked if the US had any information about Putin's whereabouts. “I have enough trouble keeping track of the whereabouts of one world leader. I would refer you to the Russians for questions on theirs. I’m sure they’ll be very responsive," he replied.
He's doing too much judo
John Lough, an associate fellow of Chatham House, told the Independent on Sunday:
Putin has disappeared before, when he was suffering from a slipped disc from a long-standing judo injury. It’s normal that he shows signs of stress, he’s 62.
In Russia, nobody talks about his problems because he has the image of a tough, energetic president who doesn’t get sick. As soon as rumours fly, the Kremlin doesn’t do much to address them which gives rise to more rumours, which really shows how this whole operation depends on one person.
He's hiding from a PR disaster
Putin's disappearance has coincided with the Kremlin sacking its American PR firm, Ketchum. Peskov told CNN: “We decided not to renew the contract because of the anti-Russian hysteria, the information war that is going on."
None of the above
All this speculation could be proven to be just that on Monday, when Putin us due to holds talks with Kyrgyzstan’s president, Almazbek Atambayev, in St Petersburg.
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