Vladimir Putin hasn't been seen doing anything in public for a while, let alone engaging in macho stunts, but the Kremlin firmly denies rumors that the president is sick. Those rumors started to swirl after the 62-year-old leader canceled a trip to Kazakhstan earlier this week, and Kremlin-watchers became more suspicious when it emerged that recently released photos of Putin were actually at least a week old, meaning Putin may not have been seen in public since March 5, reports the Washington Post. A Putin spokesman told a Russian radio station that the president is fine, just extremely busy, and his handshake is still firm enough to "break hands," the Guardian reports. After the story broke, Reuters notes, Russian state TV aired what it claims is footage of Putin at his residence today, looking "in no way different from usual."
"There is absolutely no reason for any doubts about the state of his health," a Kremlin spokesman tells the AP. "His health is really perfect, everything is OK with him, and he's working in accordance with his traditionally overloaded working schedule." Some speculate that Putin is recovering from plastic surgery, while others say that Putin is feuding with security services over the murder of Boris Nemtsov, according to Amanda Taub at Vox, who argues that the real sickness seems to be in the Russian state, where power has become very centralized around Putin with no clear successor. Reuters notes that, in addition to the canceled Kazakhstan trip, a Moscow meeting with a delegation from South Ossetia was also canceled.