Vladimir Putin hasn’t been seen in public for a week, and there’s been rampant speculation about whether he has fallen ill, had a stroke, is dead, or if Russia is currently in the midst of a power struggle (or maybe even a coup).
Now, it seems likely that Putin will just show up at a press conference, wave, smirk, and pretend like everything is normal tomorrow or in a few days. But that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from churning in the meantime.
On Russian forums, some have claimed there’s a “coup” or some kind of power struggle that is currently underway, which is why Putin is MIA. Others have said Putin is dead, suffered a stroke, or had some other kind of health problems. These rumors have been echoed on Twitter and Facebook.
Dmitri Peskov, a longtime spokesperson for Putin, 62, said Putin is merely stressed out and also noted that his handshake can still “break hands,” according to an interview with Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy.
“There’s no need to worry, everything is fine,” Peskov said answering questions about Putin’s health. The Russian leader canceled meetings with the leaders of Belarus and Kazakhstan.
At the same time, there has been rumors that Igor Sechin, one of Putin’s top advisers, has resigned or has been fired, according to Fortune magazine.
Last month, the New York-based public policy organization, Institute of Modern Russia, spoke on the possibility of a coup taking place in Moscow in the near future.
“There is little doubt these disaffected oligarchs have begun to quietly consider a change in the regime’s leadership,” the organization’s Donald N. Jensen said in early February. “Putin’s increased dependence on hardliners could also be dangerous, as Mikhail Gorbachev found out a generation ago when he tried to balance polarized political forces during the Soviet twilight. It diminishes Putin’s freedom to maneuver and increases the risk that he will become their political hostage.”
He adds: “A single triggering event could lead to social unrest, the emergence of new leaders, and an overt split in the elite. What no one yet knows is which forces are best poised to take advantage of the economic crisis and exploit Putin’s weakness.”