By Paul Goble
Vladimir Putin reportedly has cancelled three domestic trips that he had been scheduled to make this week – to the Altay, Sakha and Nizhny Novgorod – and has not appeared in public since returning from Finland, a pattern that is already leading to speculation about his health physical or political.
Three sources “close to the Kremlin” told RBC that the Kremlin leader had cancelled the three trips, but Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peshkov, said there were no cancellations and that these “trips” were simply among “the dozens” people have proposed but that had not been agreed to by the president (rbc.ru/politics/06/07/2016/577ced289a7947214102dae3).
But the news agency’s sources provided the kind of detail which suggests that the trips in fact had been planned and then cancelled. According to them, Putin was supposed to take part in a session of the State Council on tourism on July 5. Then on July 6, he was to go to Sakha to take part in a regional conference of the Popular Front and the opening of a sports competition.
And on July 7, Putin reportedly was expected in Nizhny Novgorod to open a new factory; but according to the news agency’s sources, this event was not only organized at the last minute but cancelled shortly thereafter. It reported that the factory owners hope to have it rescheduled later this month or in August.
RBC reports today that “the last time Putin took part in public activities to which the press was invited was at the end of last week” when he flew to Finland. The presidential Internet page lists subsequent meetings with regional heads, but at least one of them took place earlier than the Kremlin reported.
The last time Putin was out of public view this long was in March 2015 when he did not appear in public for eleven days. At that time, Western news agencies like Reuters reported that the Kremlin leader was ill, something his press spokesman denied.