Abducted By Aliens: Where is Putin?
Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t been seen in public for more than a week, sparking rampant speculation and rumors that he’s ill, been toppled in a coup, secretly got married or has even died.
The White House was unable Friday to shed much light on his whereabouts with principal deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz telling reporters “I have enough trouble keeping track of one world leader.”
Schultz suggested reporters should contact the Russian government for questions about its leader, adding, “I’m sure they’ll be very responsive.”
Schultz didn’t say if Obama has been briefed about the rumors. But asked if the U.S. government is operating under the assumption that Putin is alive, Schultz said, “I’d say so, yes.”
The Russian president hasn’t been seen in public since March 5, leading to rampant speculation -- and the Twitter hashtag “#putindead.” Russian state TV tried to tamp some of it down Friday, showing what it said was new footage of Putin, meeting with the Russian supreme court chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev. The Kremlin also announced Putin would meet Monday with the president of Kyrgyzstan in St Petersburg.
“We don’t really know and we’re trying to grasp at straws here to understand what, if anything, is going on,” Steven Pifer, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, who is now director of the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the Brookings Institution, told Boston’s WBUR. “It may be in fact that there is no story here.”
Moscow, Pifer noted, “tends to thrive on rumors and his absence from the public view really has those rumors astir.”
By LESLEY CLARK, McClatchy Washington Bureau