Where in the world is Vladimir Putin?

Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn't been seen in public since March 5 and some observers are speculating about the health of the autocrat.

It didn't help that the Kremlin released a photo of Putin meeting with the leader of the Republic of Karelia. The "proof" that Putin was OK went up in smoke when it was discovered that the picture was taken on March 4. Again on Friday, the Kremlin released stills and a video of Putin meeting with the head of the Supreme Court. But few seem willing to take the Russian government at its word.


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.

For a guy who lives and dies by nurturing his image in TV appearances, it is very unusual for Putin to avoid the cameras for so long. But it hardly means he's dead or has suffered some kind of debilitating medical event. In fact, once the speculation about his health began, I wouldn't put it past Putin to deliberately feed that speculation in order to become the center of world attention and feed the mystery of his personae with the Russian people.

There is also some speculation that Putin is laying low for security reasons - the result of his perceived role in the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. But it's hard to see there being any increased risk to Putin that his security team couldn't handle.

If Putin makes his meeting on Monday with Atambayev in St. Petersburg, this will all blow over and be chalked up to media hype. But any delay will no dount let loose a veritable feeding frenzy of specualtion on where in the world is Vladimir Putin?