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Putin health rumours dismissed

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

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

A Kremlin announcement yesterday that Mr Putin was postponing an upcoming trip to Kazakhstan set off a flurry of rumours, with some suggesting he could be seriously ill, and others saying he could be planning the removal of a major government figure.

Mr Putin has not been seen in public since he gave a televised address to members of the Interior Ministry on March 5.

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

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

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

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