Russians on social media have begun circulating rumors that President Vladimir Putin is ill or dead, after Moscow postponed a meeting with Putin and the Kazakh and Belarusian presidents on March 12. Russian government spokesmen have denied all rumors, claiming Putin is doing well, but the rumors persisted after a Kazakh official also claimed Putin was ill.
“He has meetings all the time,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters. “He has meetings today, tomorrow. I don’t know which ones we will make public.”
Peskov told a radio station Putin is healthy, but “a busy schedule is keeping him from making public appearances.” He also blamed the weather for exacerbating the spread of rumors.
“As soon as the sun comes out in the spring, as soon as it starts to smell of springtime, people get feverish,” he claimed. “Someone dreams up [Igor] Sechin’s [CEO of Rosneft] resignation, someone dreams up a resignation of the government and some people start thinking they haven’t seen Putin on TV in several days.”
He last appeared on March 5 during “a televised address to Interior Ministry members.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that “Putin umer” or “Putin has died” is now trending on the Russian Internet. The website www.putinumer.com is an automated website that provides visitors with different responses on Putin. This response says, “No. That is why it stinks in Moscow.”
Others posted pictures on Twitter:
— GorseFires Collectif (@GorseFires) March 12, 2015
— chuck_m. ☕️🐒 (@sequoia2001) March 12, 2015
“It’s already nearing noon and still no Putin!”
Уж полдень близится…….а Путина всё нет! pic.twitter.com/WrPzpGOuTq
— Serge N (@sergej_us0mf) March 12, 2015
“In the waiting room….”
— Свинка Скреппа ^o^ (@RuLinta) March 11, 2015
“Tomorrow on all channels in the country.”
— Stanislav ™ (@KelbaStas) March 11, 2015
On February 27, a gunman assassinated opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on a Moscow bridge, just feet from the Kremlin. Nemtsov allies claim Putin organized the hit, but his lawyer Vadim Prokhorov, thinks Putin is hiding out of fear of a possible assassination.
“Perhaps Putin, even completely sincerely, was bewildered and even afraid,” he said. “Because if you can do that next to the Kremlin, then is it not possible to do it along the route of the presidential motorcade?”