[Ed. – He’s baa-ack!]
Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared in public Monday for the first time since March 5, brushing off speculation about his health a few hours after he ordered nearly 40,000 troops to be put on full alert as part of snap readiness exercises.
Mr. Putin’s appearance with his Kyrgyz counterpart in St. Petersburg follows 10 days of intense speculation over his whereabouts after he didn’t appear in public and postponed a summit.
Sitting alongside Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev at the Constantine Palace, a smiling Mr. Putin told reporters, “It’s boring without gossip.”
Mr. Atambayev said Mr. Putin had driven him around Monday. “Russia’s president isn’t just walking, he’s speeding around, driving guests around,” he said.
Earlier Monday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Mr. Putin had ordered the military exercises, involving Russia’s Northern Fleet as well as airborne and other troops in the west of the country.