He's baaack! Vladimir Putin resurfaces after mystery 11-day disappearance

The Russian strongman isn't dead yet

Published March 16, 2015 12:53PM (EDT)

  (RT/YouTube screenshot)
(RT/YouTube screenshot)

He's been found.

After disappearing from public view for 11 speculation-filled days, Russian President Vladimir Putin resurfaced Monday, meeting with Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev at a St. Petersburg palace. The meeting marked Putin's first public appearance since March 5, when Putin met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

The strongman's abrupt and unexplained absence had set off a flurry of rumors, including that Putin had died or was in declining health, had traveled to Switzerland for the birth of his girlfriend's child, or even had been ousted in a Kremlin coup.

But there he was on Monday, most assuredly not dead and showing no outward signs of illness. The Guardian reports that during a joint appearance, Atambayev told reporters that Putin "has just driven me around the palace, and was behind the wheel himself, so there would be fewer rumors."

"He’s not only walking, he’s driving his guests around,” Atambayev added.

Bizarre under any circumstances, Putin's week-and-a-half-long disappearance came during a particularly tense time in Russia, with the country still embroiled in Ukraine's civil war (despite claims to the contrary) and amid continuing fury over the assassination last month of former deputy prime minister and leading opposition activist Boris Nemtsov. Four Chechens have been arrested in connection with the killing, which occurred within view of the Kremlin, but the primary suspect withdrew his confession last week, asserting that he had made it under duress.

By Luke Brinker

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Almazbek Atambayev Boris Nemtsov Kremlin Kyrgyzstan Russia Vladimir Putin