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MOSCOW: Russia’s defence minister reappeared on television images broadcast Saturday, after his two-week absence from view prompted questions from journalists.

The defence ministry published a video showing Sergei Shoigu, a staunch ally of President Vladimir Putin, chairing a meeting on Russia’s defence procurement.

No dates accompany the images on state television but Shoigu refers to a finance ministry meeting that took place on Friday.

The minister said arms orders and supplies are taking place as planned “despite difficulties we are having today” from the Western sanctions imposed after Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.

Some Russian media reports have speculated that Shoigu could have health problems.

On Saturday, the defence ministry denied reports that Shoigu had suffered a heart attack and was in hospital.

Writing on messaging app Telegram, the ministry said that reports saying that Shoigu was recovering at Moscow’s Burdenko military hospital were “obviously fake”.

In early March, Russia imposed prison terms of up to 15 years for publishing “fake” news about the army.

Earlier this week, the Kremlin referred to a conversation between the minister and Putin on the occasion of a report on developments of the “special military operation” at a meeting of the Russian security council, brushing aside speculation about Shoigu’s prolonged absence.

Shoigu had last appeared in public on March 11 despite his leading role in Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov sought to quell rumours, telling journalists: “The defence minister has a lot to take care of at the moment. There is a special military operation going on.

“This is not the moment for media activity,” he added.

The defence minister, 66, usually features regularly on state television broadcasts and has been filmed going on expeditions into the Siberian wilderness with Putin.

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