Kremlin-controlled TV informed millions of Russians about a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his Kyrgyz counterpart Almazbek Atambayev. Nothing unusual about that, right?


The meeting between the two leaders of the former Soviet republics isn’t due to take place until Monday. But that didn’t stop the newsreader on the Rossiya 24 channel reading out the following item – all in the past tense.

“The Kremlin also reports that Vladimir Putin met with Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev on Monday. They talked about cooperation in investment and humanitarian spheres, as well as the energy sector. They also discussed the possibility of Kyrgyzstan joining the Eurasian Economic Union.”

Before we get to Monday, as most of you are undoubtedly aware, we have to get past the weekend first. A spokesperson for Rossiya 24 quickly announced the news item had been a mistake. And, on a normal day, that would have been that.

But these are not normal times in Russia. Putin hasn’t been seen in public for over a week. This prolonged absence has sparked rumors that Russia’s long-serving national leader is ill. Or has been deposed in a coup. Or is dead. Or is visiting his alleged lover, the “extremely flexible gymnast,” Alina Kabaeva, who reportedly gave birth to a baby Putin in Switzerland today. Take your pick.