Russian President Vladimir Putin has appeared in public for the first time since early March, in a meeting with the Kyrgyz leader. He has laughed off speculation surrounding his 10-day absence.
Putin met with President Almazbek Atambayev of Kyrgyzstan in the Constantine Palace in Saint Petersburg on Monday.
He laughed off suggestions he had been unwell or even quietly deposed as being behind his 10-day absence, joking that without rumors life would be uninteresting.
"It would be boring without gossip," he said.
The Russian president was last seen in public on March 5, at a news conference held with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Speculation over the reasons behind the 62-year-old's unusual absence from the public spotlight has ranged from health issues to Putin becoming a father again to him being quietly deposed.
Dmitry Peskov, the Russian strongman's spokesman, insisted that things were continuing as normal, and said Putin was working the whole time.
The Kremlin even released photos and videos of Putin attending the meeting, although Russian media suggested these had been taken earlier.
President Atambayev said the pair had driven around the city together.
"The president of Russia doesn't only walk, he drives, and chauffeurs his guests," he said.
The Kremlin has released details for a number of public events Putin will attend this week.
an/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)