After disappearing for ten days from the public's eye, theories surrounding his absence ranged from the tabloidy (fathering a baby with a Russian gymnast), to the trivial (lower back issues), to the bizarre (another putsch in the Kremlin), to the idiotic (dead). All that can be cast aside when moments ago we learn that the Russian president simply wanted some time away and has now reappeared for his meeting with the Kyrgyz president. From Bloomberg:
- PUTIN ARRIVES FOR MEETING W/ KYRGYZ PRESIDENT IN ST. PETERSBURG
And for those who desperately need photographic evidence here it is:
Putin take on the rumors:
Putin on the #PutinMissing speculation about his health: "It would be boring without rumors."— Kirit Radia (@KiritRadia) March 16, 2015
That settles that, at least until the next rumor.
But while Putin may have kept a low visibility profile, he was very well heard, and as reported earlier today, the Russian president ordered nearly 40,000 troops in northern and western Russia to be put on full alert early Monday as part of snap-readiness exercises, official news agencies quoted Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying.
According to the WSJ, the maneuvers are the latest in a series of such checks in recent years and follow dozens of military exercises conducted over the past year since the start of the Ukraine crisis.
The military exercises announced on Monday involve Russia's Northern Fleet, as well as airborne and other troops in the west of the country. The main focus is to test readiness in the Arctic, where Russia has expanded its military presence in recent years, officials said. The exercises are scheduled to continue through to March 21.
"New challenges and threats to military security require further increases in the military capabilities of the armed forces and special attention to the newly formed strategic group in the northern direction, " Mr. Shoigu said.
Many more to come:
- RUSSIA TO HOLD CONSTANT UNPLANNED MILITARY CHECKS: PESKOV
As the WSJ concludes, "western officials have criticized Russia's frequent exercises as threatening and provocative, a charge Moscow parries with its own allegations that military maneuvers near Russia's borders by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are destabilizing." Oddly enough, they have nothing to say about NATO parking tanks and armors and various other weapons just feet away from the Russian border.