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Vladimir Putin's spokesman denies rumours of ill health

The Kremlin is dismissing rumours circulating online that the Russian leader is unwell, saying he is in frequent contact with the government despite a rare step out of the public eye and a cancelled trip to Kazakhstan.

Putin has not been seen in public since March 5

Putin rarely steps out of the public eye for extended periods of time. (Alexei Druzhinin/Presidential Press Service/RIA-Novosti/Associated Press)

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman has dismissed rumours circulating online that the leader is in poor health.

Dmitry Peskov told Ekho Moskvy radio station Thursday that the president was "absolutely" healthy, adding that the president's handshake was still so strong it could "break your hand." 

Peskov's comment was a reference to the Kremlin's usual response to regular queries about the fragile health of former president Boris Yeltsin, who had heart surgery during his tenure.

Peskov also said that Putin would not be appearing at a meeting with the Federal Security Service on Thursday, which he often attends.

"Yes, he's usually there," Peskov said. "But this year he was not planning to be."

A Kremlin announcement Wednesday that Putin would postpone an upcoming trip to Kazakhstan set off a flurry of rumours online, with some suggesting that Putin could be seriously ill and others positing that he could be planning for the ouster of a major government figure.

The Russian leader has not been seen in public since he gave a televised address to members of the Interior Ministry on March 5. The Kremlin said he may step out again today or on Friday. 

Peskov told the RIA news agency that Putin is in constant contact with the government, state companies and banks.

"He has meetings all the time, but not all meetings are public," RIA quoted Peskov as saying. "The agenda is very intensive — linked to the crisis and so on."

The Kremlin's press service on Wednesday issued a photo of a meeting between Putin and the regional governor of Karelia. However, local news agencies had reported on the meeting as early as March 5. Russian news agency RBC cited an anonymous source in the Karelian governor's office as saying that the meeting had actually taken place March 4.

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