Still No Putin in Public: Is It the Flu? CIA thinks so, says Gawker By John Johnson, Newser Staff Posted Mar 14, 2015 12:11 PM CDT 13 comments Comments Vladimir Putin listens to the Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev, right, in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia. The Kremlin says the image is from March 13. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service) (Newser) – The Kremlin may have released what it says are up-to-date images of Vladimir Putin, but another day without a public appearance has kept the rumor mill moving. While the one about him being in Switzerland for the birth of his love child is tempting, consensus seems to be shifting toward something more mundane: He's a little sick. Specifically, he's got the flu, reports John Cook of Gawker, citing a CIA source. The New York Times thinks something along those lines makes sense. "Since half of Moscow seemed racked with a flu that knocks people onto their backs for days at a time, that seemed the most likely explanation," writes Neil MacFarquhar. "(Who knows how many hands he shakes in a day?)" In the meantime, Putin's enemies are celebrating and satirists and cracking jokes. But Reuters takes note of a column by Kirill Martynov in the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta in which he chastises people for thinking that if Putin dies, democratic reform would follow without any effort on their part. "It's not Putin that has died," he wrote. "It's you, if you think that his death will make you more free." At Vox, Amanda Taub says all the goofy rumors don't deserve attention, but something else does: the lack of a clear succession plan. It's not about who would take his office, but who would take his power. "It is easy to mistake Putin's personal control over the levers of power in Russia for a sign of strength," she writes. In fact, the opposite is true. "And that means that for the rest of the world, and for Russians, it is a potential source of instability and danger."