Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday laughed off days of frenzied “rumours” over his health and whereabouts as he reappeared in public after an unusually long 10-day absence.

Emerging after days of speculation that he was either ill or had even been deposed in a palace coup, Putin met with the leader of ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan just outside Saint Petersburg.

The typically tardy Putin was two hours late but showed up looking relaxed with no visible signs of ill-health, quelling the rumours that had nevertheless highlighted the fragility of Russia’s tightly-controlled political system dominated by one man.

“We would be bored if there were no rumours,” Putin said as he met Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev at the sumptuous Konstantinov’s Palace outside Saint Petersburg.

In an apparent bid to prove Putin was fit, Atambayev said the Russian leader had taken him for a drive around the palace grounds before their meeting.

“In their dreams,” said a smiling Atambayev, referring to the rumours the president was sick.

– ‘Paralysed and captured’ –

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who has had to fend off countless questions from the media in recent days over the leader’s absence, took delight in mocking the rumours.

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