After 11 days out of the public eye sparked intense speculation about his health and whereabouts, Vladimir Putin reappeared today as if nothing had ever happened.
"Things would be boring without gossip," were the first words he said after appearing before journalists after a meeting with Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev in St Petersburg.
Atambayev also joined in, saying Putin "just now drove me around the grounds, he himself sat at the wheel".
In the past week or so Putin had cancelled a string of meetings, leading to claims ranging from he was actually in Switzerland attending the birth of his lovechild or that he had been "neutralised" in a coup.
The AP news agency said there was nothing about the Russian president's appearance today to suggest ill health, although he did look slightly pale.
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