NEW DELHI: Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet with his Kyrgyz counterpart, Almazbek Atambayev, in front of journalists and TV cameras, to discuss trade, investment, cultural and humanitarian co-operation. This meet has dominated headlines the world over, not because of the matters that are to be discussed, but because it may finally answer the question: Where is President Putin?

The Russian leader has not made a public appearance since 5 March. This may be just over ten days, but as Putin is well known to cherish the limelight -- posing with a tranquilised tiger, riding horses bareback, fishing and earning a black-belt -- this disappearance has sent the chattering classes into a frenzy. Is Putin ill? Is he dead? Is Russia in the middle of a coup? Is the President’s love life to blame? Or is he just busy doing too much judo? All these theories (and more) have been floated.

The rumours started when a meeting in the Kazakh capital, Astana, between the Russian leader and the presidents of Kazakhstan and Belarus was postponed on Wednesday. A Kazakh official told Reuters that Putin had fallen ill. This missed meeting was followed by another missed meeting on Thursday, with the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia's counter-intelligence agency.

The second missed meeting prompted concern about Putin’s health. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that illness was not the case, and that Putin was alive and well as “his handshake is so strong he breaks hands with it”.

In fact, the rumours regarding the President’s whereabouts (or lack thereof if he is dead) were spurred on by the Kremlin’s reaction. On Friday -- three days before the scheduled meeting between Putin and Atambayev -- a Russian state media broadcaster prematurely aired a report that the meeting had already occurred. The rumour mill went into overdrive accusing Russian officials of staging the event.

Further, an intriguing photo appeared on Instagram, furthering the speculation. One of Putin's closest allies, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov posted, “I am devoted to him as a person. And this regardless of whether he is in his position or not!"

Not? This statement gave support to those who believed that the President was missing because cracks had emerged within his closest circle of aides, with a possible coup lurking around the corner. This theory links to the shooting of of the leading opposition figure Boris Nemtsov last month. The key suspects -- who are now under arrest are Chechen -- and as reported by the BBC, one of them, Zaur Dadayev, has been praised by Kadyrov as a "true warrior and patriot". This puts Putin in a difficult situation give his closeness to the Chechen leadership, and furthers rumours of a split.

Will Stewart wrote in the Daily Mail that Vladimir Putin is 'alive' but 'neutralised' as shadowy security chiefs stage a stealthy coup in Moscow. “Former FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev was behind the plot, claimed chairman of the pro-Kremlin national Islamic Committee, Geydar Dzhemal.There have been no confirmed sightings of Putin for nine days, while in the febrile atmosphere engulfing Moscow a convoy of large trucks parked outside the Kremlin fueled rumours of a flit by the president,” Steward wrote.

There have been other even more -- shall we say interesting -- theories. According to Switzerland's Bick tabloid Putin is missing because he is in Switzerland to be with Alina Kabaeva, his rumoured lover, as she went into labour at the private Clinic Sant'Anna near Lugano earlier this week. The Kremlin had to step in to deny that Kabaeva -- an Olympic-gymnast-turned-parliamentarian -- has given birth, but that hasn’t quelled the speculation on the role of Putin’s love life in this disappearance.

Another theorist suggests that Putin’s disappearance may be linked to physical activity. John Lough, an associate fellow of Chatham House, told the Independent on Sunday that Putin missing for nine days is not a cause of concern. “Putin has disappeared before, when he was suffering from a slipped disc from a long-standing judo injury. It’s normal that he shows signs of stress, he’s 62,” Lough said.

Whether it’s judo, the birth of a love child, a coup, or illness/death to blame for Putin’s disappearance, the world is closely watching to see whether the Russian President shows up for his meeting with Atambayev in St Petersburg.