Kremlin denies Putin shelved Japan visit over health

MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin's health is not preventing him from working or travelling, his spokesman said Friday after sources said that the Kremlin cancelled upcoming talks with the Japanese prime minister.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the visit of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to Moscow was "never scheduled definitively" and expressed hope it will occur in January.

"We hope that this visit will take place and assume that it will happen in the second half of January," Peskov told the ITAR-TASS news agency.

A Japanese government source told AFP Friday that Russian officials informed the Japanese side of the cancellation of the meeting due to Putin's unspecified health problem.

Media in Japan also said that a mayor of a north Japanese town quoted Prime Minister Noda as saying "President Putin's health condition is bad."

Peskov -- who has repeatedly denied rumours that Putin is suffering from a back injury -- also gave an interview to tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, calling the rumours "blown out of proportion."

"He is working as before, and plans to continue working at the same pace. He is also not planning to stop his sports activities, and, as any athlete, he may sometimes have pain in back, or arm, or leg -- this has never affected his work efficiency," Peskov said.

The globe-trotting Russian strongman, 60, travelled actively ever since embarking on his historic third term in the Kremlin in May, but has not ventured outside Moscow since an official visit to Tajikistan on October 5.

This week the Kremlin confirmed that Putin will be visiting Turkey next Monday, December 3.