Kremlin releases images of a meeting it says President Vladimir Putin held Friday
Putin spokesman dismisses rumors of ill health sparked by Putin's cancellation of planned talks
Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared in a series of photos released by the Kremlin on Friday after a week in which canceled engagements led to speculation over his health.
The three images showed Putin meeting with the head of the Supreme Court in Moscow on Friday, the Kremlin said. State broadcaster Russia 24 also aired video footage of the meeting.
CNN cannot independently confirm that the meeting took place as stated.
Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov sought to quell the rumors of ill health on Thursday, joking that they were down to “spring fever,” Russia’s state-run Tass news agency reported.
“When the sun comes up in spring, and as soon as spring is in the air, then the fever begins,” Peskov said. “Someone dreams of (Rosneft CEO Igor) Sechin resignation, others – of government resignation, while others have not seen President Putin on TV for several days,” he said, according to Tass.
“We are calm on this fever, and respond to the questions with patience,” Peskov said.
Speaking to Russian radio station Echo of Moscow, Peskov also urged people not to worry, saying that Putin was “absolutely” healthy.
Asked if the President’s handshake was firm, he replied that Putin “can break a hand.”
Last fall, rumors also circulated about the health of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, after he was absent from the public eye for more than a month. He eventually reappeared, with North Korean state media releasing photographs of him walking with a cane.
The speculation about Putin began after a planned meeting in the Kazakh capital, Astana, between the Russian leader and the presidents of Kazakhstan and Belarus was postponed at short notice.
Peskov confirmed Wednesday that the leaders had agreed to delay it for several days but did not give a new date, Tass said.
The Kremlin press office said Friday that Putin would meet Monday with his Kyrgyz counterpart, Almazbek Atambayev, in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, Tass said.
Putin’s last public appearance was Sunday, on International Women’s Day. Since then, he has had a number of meetings, but no video was released, only stills uploaded to the Kremlin’s website.
In the course of his many years in power, Putin has cultivated the image of a strong and vigorous leader.
His exploits, captured on film and released to the media, have included riding horses while shirtless, exploring the seafloor in a submersible, handling a tranquilized tiger and, just last year, earning a karate black belt.
The Russian President has been in the international spotlight in recent months after Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, which has prompted heightened tensions with the West.
CNN’s Alla Eshchenko reported from Moscow, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported from London.