Vladimir Putin's trip to Kiev this week to sign a series of trade deals with an increasingly Russia-friendly Ukrainian government should have been a feel-good moment for the Russian prime minister, but all anyone wants to talk about is the mysterious bruise on the side of his face:
Putin's aides denied anything was wrong, but the leader's appearance caused intense speculation in local media and blogs. Ukrainian television channel TSN said the Kremlin chief had "noticeable swelling" on his face and was "covered in make-up."
Andrei Kolesnikov, a well-known correspondent with Russia's Kommersant newspaper, confirmed the president's unusual aspect. "Could it really be the result of some tough sparring?" he asked, saying the bruise was "thoroughly retouched but nonetheless noticeable to everyone without exception".
The Kremlin is not-very-convincingly blaming jet lag and light falling on his face in an "unfortunate manner." The Ukrainian media is reporting that the normally talkative Putin was "sad and silent" during a meeting with his Ukrainian counterparts and left early, canceling a planned dinner. According to the BBC, the bruise seems to have appeared between Tuesday and Wednesday.
Not waiting before launching into speculation, Ukrainian papers suggest Putin either "had plastic surgery, underwent a complicated dental procedure that left his face puffy or had an unfortunate judo fight." As the Guardian notes, Putin's habit of cuddling with dangerous wildlife can also put one at risk of injury. In any event, Vladimir Vladimirovich himself doesn't seem likely to comment.