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Speculation mounts on 'missing' leader Putin

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on a report from independent news outlet Dozhd yesterday that said Russian President Vladimir Putin (inset) had not been in Moscow for the last several days.

Putin, who has not been seen in public or on live television broadcasts for more than a week, postponed a meeting with Kazakh and Belarussian leaders last week.

Sources told Dozhd that the president was at his residence on Lake Valdai in Novgorod province. Peskov declined to comment when contacted by Dozhd.

A Kazakh government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Putin may have cancelled the summit with the Belarussian and Kazakh leaders because of illness. Speaking last Thursday, however, Peskov gave assurances that the 62-year-old president was in good health.

Putin's silence in the past week has fuelled feverish speculation on everything from the state of his health to his grip on power and whether he went to Switzerland to watch his girlfriend give birth.

The Kremlin has denied the rumours.

Putin has a scheduled meeting with Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev in St Petersburg today, the Kremlin said in a statement.