The mystery over the whereabouts of Vladimir Putin deepened on Saturday as Russian state media broadcast – then retracted – reports that he had hosted an official visit from the President of Kyrgyzstan.
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.
The Kremlin said to be preparing a major announcement, journalists are asked not to depart for the weekend.
Update: Vladimir Putin has been ‘neutralised’ by astealthy coup as rumours about his health and well-being continue to flourish
Vladimir Putin is ‘alive’ but ‘neutralised’ as shadowy security chiefs stage a stealthy coup in Moscow, it was claimed last night.
Former FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev was behind the plot, claimed chairman of the pro-Kremlin national Islamic Committee, Geydar Dzhemal.
There have been no confirmed sightings of Putin for nine days, while in the febrile atmosphere engulfing Moscow a convoy of large trucks parked outside the Kremlin fueled rumours of a flit by the president.