Russian President Vladimir Putin has finally resurfaced on Monday, his first public appearance since March 5. Incidentally, he ordered for troops, warships, submarines and war aircraft to be on full alert for a snap military drill on Russia’s west.
“It would be boring without gossip.”
Mr Putin reemerged in public view to attend to a meeting with his Kyrgyzstan counterpart, president Almazbek Atambayev, at a palace in St. Petersburg. Russian state television station, Rossiya 24, aired footage of Putin and Atambayev’s meeting on Monday, ending outrageous rumors about his absence.
“It would be boring without gossip,” Mr Putin told the press with jest.
The meeting began an hour late, encouraging speculation that Mr Putin would not be coming, The New York Times reported.
Spokesman for Mr Putin, Dmitri Peskov, scoffed at speculations regarding the president’s prolonged absence from the public eye.
“Have you all seen the broken, paralyzed president, who has been kidnapped by generals? He’s only just flown in from Switzerland, where he attended a birth, as you know,” Peskov told press on Monday.
Antabayev told the press that Mr Putin personally drove him around St Petersburg, highlighting that the Russian president is very much healthy.
“He was sitting behind the wheel himself. This was to dispel the rumors. I often hear different rumors about myself, this isn’t right. That is, the president of Russia not only walks, he races around, he gives guests rides,” Antabayev said.
Troops On Full Combat Readiness
Coinciding with his comeback, Mr Putin had also ordered 38,000 troops, 41 warships, 15 submarines and 110 aircraft on full alert for a snap military drill to be held in western Russia, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Monday. He said such drills are needed as there had been increase in security threats against Russia.
“New challenges and threats to military security demand a further increase in the military capabilities of the armed forces,” Shoigu said, as reported by Bloomberg, citing Interfax.
According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov, Russia remained deeply concerned “about the increase in exercises of NATO countries close” to Russian borders. NATO’s presence is particularly surprising because it was observed in the northeastern region of Europe, “which is the most stable in security terms, not only on our continent but possible in the world,” Meshkov said.
Meshkov added that snap military drills will be a normal occurrence. The military drill announced on Monday will run until March 21 with the aim of assessing Russia’s military ability on the islands of Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land. The drill shall assess whether the troops can defend Russian borders via land, air and naval capability.