Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been seen in public for at least a week, fueling speculations about his health. Social media users have flooded the Internet with assertions -- serious and humorous -- that Putin has died. His press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, has dismissed those reports as nothing more than "spring fever."
Social media headlines reporting allegations from the Russian Internet that Putin is dead prompted the mainstream media worldwide to speculate about the Russian president's state of health.
Putin's press secretary said there is no reason to worry.
"Well, there is absolutely no reason for any doubts about the state of his [Putin's] health. His health is really perfect and everything is OK with him," said Peskov.
Putin has tried to maintain the image of a physically strong, decisive leader who can be counted on to solve challenging problems. But he has not been seen in public since hosting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi March 5. His spokesman said there is nothing unusual about that.
"It depends on the day actually. Sometimes he's more public, sometimes he's not. But it doesn't mean that he's not continuing his tradition of being a workaholic," said Peskov.
The Kremlin said Putin is preparing for a busy agenda in the coming days, including some international meetings. But a trip to Kazakhstan planned for this week has been postponed.
The Russian president's absence from the public eye comes soon after the burial of his opponent Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on a bridge near the Kremlin February 27. Opposition activists do not put much faith in the official probe into Nemtsov's death, and say a suspect who has confessed to being involved might have been tortured.
Nemtsov's daughter Zhanna said she holds Putin "politically" responsible for her father's death.
"We understand the emotions of his daughter. We can only renew the condolences that were expressed by President Putin after that tragic death. And we can only say that the investigation is going on," commented Peskov.
Russia's economy has declined in the past year, due to the falling price of oil and Western sanctions imposed on Moscow for arming pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The president still enjoys support from many Russians who see him as a strong leader.