Is Vladimir Putin really dead?
Rumours are circulating on social media that the Russian President, who has not been seen in public for eight days, has died.
Twitter has been abuzz with conspiracy theories, with the hash tag #PutinIsDead taking off.
There are reports an official death notice appeared briefly on the website of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, before being taken down.
— The Moscow Times (@MoscowTimes) March 12, 2015
— BI Military&Defense (@BI_Defense) March 12, 2015
The chatter began earlier this week when the Kremlin uploaded a photo of Mr Putin from a meeting with the head of the Republic of Karelia.
They claimed it had been taken on March 11.
But it was later revealed the meeting actually occurred a week ago.
Russians were quick to jump on the speculation bandwagon, using social media to make light of the situation.
— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) March 11, 2015
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) March 12, 2015
The President’s office insists Putin is alive and kicking.
“There is no reason to worry ... everything is fine,” his press secretary Dmitry Peskov told local media.
He added that Putin's handshake was still so strong it could “break your hand”.
However, there are also some questionable holes in the Kremlin's story.
A number of official events have been cancelled, including the President's planned visit to Kazakhstan.
A Kazakh government spokesperson told Reuters: “It looks like he (Putin) has fallen ill.”
If we don't get to see #Putin in next 24 hours or just get more press stills, can assume something serious up - & succession wars begin
— Mark Galeotti (@MarkGaleotti) March 12, 2015
— Silver Surfer (@RobPulseNews) March 12, 2015
Further adding to the speculation were claims from news blog Russkiy Monitor that they received a tip off from an anonymous source that Mr Putin had suffered a stroke.
The ‘insider’ reportedly contacted the media organisation from the elite Moscow Central Clinical Hospital.
Putin's health remains a mystery but it seems the rumour mill will continue to circulate until there is evidence that proves otherwise.
News break – March 13