Vladimir Putin alive and well in Switzerland…
WASHINGTON — From Russia, with love child. Vladimir Putin hasn’t been seen in public for more than a week — and rampant speculation over the Russian president’s whereabouts took a wild turn on Friday with reports he was in Switzerland for the birth of his secret daughter.
“Es ist ein Madchen!” or “It’s a Girl!” screamed a headline from the Swiss newspaper Blick, which had him in Lugano to witness the arrival of his child with Alina Kabaeva, 31, a retired Olympic gymnast who served in the Russian parliament and now works for a media company.
The paper reported that Putin’s daughter was born at the posh Santa Anna di Sorgeno clinic on the Italian border.
Putin reserved two rooms at the clinic — one for Kabaeva, and one for body guards, Swiss radio channel RSI said, according to the Daily Beast.
Putin himself was staying with friends in the area, the Swiss website Ticino news reported.
Desperate to squash the rumors, the Kremlin released a photo and video Friday of the 62-year old Russian strongman meeting with the head of the Russian Supreme Court.
But there was no way to verify when they were taken, and plenty of reason for suspicion.
On Wednesday, the government issued a picture of a meeting between Putin and the regional governor of Karelia, but the Russian newspaper RBC said the meeting actually took place March 4.
There has been no verified Putin sightings since March 5, when he appeared at a press conference in Moscow with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Two canceled meetings since then have Kremlin watchers furiously trying to figure out where Putin is and what he’s doing.
Putin has two adult children with his ex-wife, Lyudmila Shkrebneva, and has insisted he has no relationship with the gymnast.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov denied the love child stories.
“The information on a baby born to Vladimir Putin is false,” Peskov said. “I am going to ask people who have money to organize a contest on the best media rumor.”
Other speculation about what’s behind Putin’s vanishing act range from health problems to a power struggle in the Kremlin. Peskov’s poetic denials – and the Kremlin’s reputation for obfuscation — did little to tamp down the persistent questions.
At one point, he claimed there was “no need to worry” about Putin’s health because. “His handshake is so strong he breaks hands with it.”