MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose recent cancelled engagements and disappearance from public view spawned rumours of health problems or worse, appeared in official photos of a meeting purportedly held on Friday.

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The three photos, released by the Kremlin, show the Russian president meeting and shaking hands with the head of the Russian Supreme Court. Russia 24, the state broadcaster, also aired video footage of the meeting.

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As a sign that Soviet-era Kremlinology—reading political tea leaves—might be back in vogue, CNN, The Guardian and other Western news outlets noted they could not independently confirm such a meeting took place Friday.

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Putin’s absence was noted after a recent planned meeting in the Kazakh capital, Astana, with the leaders of Kazakhstan and Belarus was postponed on short notice.

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Even before Friday’s photos surfaced, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was taking pains to quash any rumors of a presidential illness, political or otherwise.

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“When the sun comes up in spring, and as soon as spring is in the air, then the fever begins,” Peskov told reporters on Thursday, according to the official Tass news agency. “Someone dreams of (Rosneft CEO Igor) Sechin resignation, others—of government resignation, while others have not seen President Putin on TV for several days.

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“We are calm on this fever, and respond to the questions with patience,” he said.

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Peskov told Russian radio station Echo of Moscow that people should not worry, that Putin—known for his manly, shirtless, outdoorsy persona—was “absolutely” healthy.

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Asked if the president’s handshake was firm, Peskov replied that Putin, a karate black belt, “can break a hand.”

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Political jitters are perhaps understandable given the intense spotlight on the president following his quarterbacking of Russia’s military excursions into Ukraine.

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Tensions have also been heightened by the recent fatal shooting of outspoken Putin critic Boris Nemtsov only a few-hundred yards from the Kremlin walls.

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On Friday, Peskov also dismissed a rumor in some European media that Putin recently became a father.

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“The information on a baby born to Vladimir Putin is false,” Peskov told Forbes magazine, Tass reported, adding, “I am going to ask people who have money to organize a contest on the best media rumor.”