The Daily Mail†and the UK Independent reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been physically seen by the public since his trip to Finland on Friday, July 1, 2016, and has canceled multiple expected trips to Siberia slated for early July.
A new prolonged absence is bound to fuel fresh speculation, and signs of any ill-health or other unexpected factor will be scrutinised by Western embassies in Moscow.
Putin, 63, is normally a hands-on leader who is visible daily and prides himself on his macho image, and frequent trips around his vast country or abroad. He cancelled at short notice plans to this week visit the Altai region on July 5 and the diamond-rich Sakha Republic today, both in Siberia, according to news agency RBK. A visit to Novgorod for July 7 was also postponed, it was reported.
The head of the Sakha republic Egor Borisov admitted Putin was supposed to come, but did not. "I would not dramatize this situation," he said. "The president decided to cancel a number of activities planned for the beginning of July."
As these most recent reports and rumors swirl about Putin's canceling events and "vanishing" yet again, we see multiple articles providing more proof of tensions ratcheting up between the U.S., NATO and Russia, with putim himself indicating that war is on the horizon. (See video at the bottom of this article)
"Moscow has dispatched a specialized spy ship off the coast of Hawaii with the likely mission to monitor the U.S. Navy led Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise," according to USNI News.
While it wasnít unusual at all in during the Cold War for Russian spy ships to linger off the coast of the U.S. to suck up signals intelligence information or monitor exercises like RIMPAC, the Russians have been lax in their surveillance until recently.
"It used to be that AGIs would deploy regularly off their ports and we would encounter them and they would operate very safely and professionally ó mostly looking for signals intelligence," Bryan Clark, a naval analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and former aide to retired Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, told USNI News.
Following the March 2014 seizure of the Crimean region of Ukraine, the Russian Navy has operated more aggressively returning to levels not seen since the Cold War.
Given the participation of 25 countries, almost 50 of ships, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel operating during the exercise, it would make sense for the Russians to listen in, Clark said.
"Itís unusual now, only because they havenít done it in a while," he said.
On Wednesday, July 6, 2016 the UK Independent reported that Russia was gathering "troops at Baltic military bases ahead of Cold War-style stand-off with Nato, writing "The Russian military has been mobilising troops, trucks and equipment to various bases around Kaliningrad, a crucial outpost between Poland and Lithuania, as well as sites further inland according to Reuters."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also issued warnings to Finland about joining "Anti-Russia" NATO, which the Moscow Times says echoes Vladimir Putin's implied threat in his last physical appearance before his vanishing act, where he stated ""We will respect any choice of the Finnish people. But do you think we will continue to act in the same way [if Finland joins NATO?] We have withdrawn our troops to a distance of 1500 kilometers from the border. Do you think they will stay there?"
Perhaps the most chilling statement from Putin came at the conclusion of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 17th where the Russian leader took foreign journalists to task for spreading U.S. propaganda and ignoring the march toward nuclear war, stating "We know year by year what's going to happen, and they know that we know. It's only you that they tell tall tales to, and you buy it, and spread it to the citizens of your countries. You people in turn do not feel a sense of the impending danger - this is what worries me. How do you not understand that the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction? While they pretend that nothing is going on. I don't know how to get through to you anymore."