Vladimir Putin’s indefatigable spokesman Dmitry Peskov has had better weeks. Rumors are continuing to swirl over the president’s mysterious absence from public view, ranging from illness, to death, to coup d’etat, to another bad plastic surgery incident. (Skeptics have set up an amusing “Is Putin Dead?” answer-generator site, which gives responses like “Sorry, but he’s still alive” and “No, it stinks in Moscow but not because of this.”)
Today, things got the point where Peskov had to publicly deny a report, which originated in a Swiss tabloid, that Putin is in Switzerland to attend the birth of a “love child” born to his rumored girlfriend, Olympic rhythmic gymnast-turned-member of parliament Alina Kabaeva.
“The information on a baby born to Vladimir Putin is false,” said Peskov. “I am going to ask people who have money to organize a contest on the best media rumor.”
As the Moscow Times notes, the rumors about Putin and Kabaeva, one of the flag bearers at the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, date back to when he was still married, but have continued since he divorced in 2013. Putin has never publicly acknowledged the relationship, though he has said he is in love with someone. In 2013, Peskov denied that the two had been secretly married.
The love child rumor is almost certainly bogus, but something strange is clearly happening in Moscow. Today brought what the Russian media called a “surprise” visit from North Korea’s foreign minister. (Foreign ministers, even North Korean ones, don’t usually just show up unannounced.) There was also this cryptic Instagram post from pro-Kremlin Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, pledging that he will always be loyal to Putin “whether he is in office or not.” Huh.