The rumours and confusion surrounding Putin’s mysterious disappearance were heightened on Saturday when Russian state television retracted reports that Putin had hosted an official visit from the president of Kyrgyzstan.
The Telegraph reports:
Mr Putin has remained hidden from public view for nine days. Levels of fear and uncertainty in Moscow have been rising as rumours fly over what could be behind Putin’s lengthy disappearance.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that there is anything amiss with the Russian leader, batting away suggestions that he is ill, dead, victim of a palace coup or in Switzerland to be by his girlfriend’s side as she gives birth.
Mr Putin’s next public appearance is scheduled for Monday, when he is due to meet Almazbek Atambayev, the President of Kyrgyzstan, in Saint Petersburg.
But that encounter was thrown into confusion on Friday night as announcers on state television, apparently reading from an incorrect script, described the meeting in the past tense.
Rossiya 24, the channel involved, later described the incident as a “mistake”, but the blunder deepened suspicions that state media is covering up for Mr Putin’s unexplained absence.
On Friday, ostensibly new footage of Mr Putin meeting a senior Russian judge at his residence was shown on state television but failed to quell the speculation. Such clips are often recorded in advance, and released when the authorities give the go-ahead.
Meanwhile, Swiss media reported that Alina Kabaeva, a gymnast turned parliamentarian who is allegedly Mr Putin’s girlfriend, had flown to Lugano, Switzerland to give birth to a baby girl at the private clinic of Santa’Anna di Sorengo.
But the Swiss reports diverged on when the former gymnast had given birth.
Gymnast turned politician Alina Kabaeva is reputedly in a relationship with Mr. Putin
A tabloid, Bilk, claimed that Mr Putin was present when his 32-year-old alleged lover gave birth to the baby, purportedly explaining his public absence. Other local reports said that the Russian leader had reserved two rooms at the clinic, one for his girlfriend and the other for her bodyguards, and had himself stayed with friends nearby.
But Corriere del Ticino, an Italian-language Swiss newspaper, claimed that Miss Kabayeva had the baby two weeks ago and that the event did not explain Mr Putin’s absence from official events in the last week.
“Putin never set foot in Ticino while his girlfriend was staying at the clinic,” it said.
Reports claimed Mr Putin had chosen the clinic in Lugano after it was recommended to him by his friend Silvio Berlusconi.
One of the former Italian premier’s daughters, Barbara Berlusconi, gave birth there in 2009. It was also reported that Mr Putin was friends with a Russian gynaecologist who works at the private clinic.
Mr Putin’s spokesman told the Russian edition of Forbes magazine that “information about the birth of a baby fathered by Vladimir Putin does not correspond with reality.”
Mr Putin and Mr Berlusconi developed a close rapport when the Italian billionaire businessman was in power, visiting each other in Moscow and Rome.
Mr Putin has not been seen in public since he met Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, on March 5.