The first public appearance of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in six days has raised concerns about the current health condition of the three-time-decade ruler.
Alexander Lukashenko’s health has been under debate since after his absence from the Victory Day parade on May 9 in Moscow’s Red Square, where he skipped part of the commemorations marking the Soviet role in defeating Nazi Germany.
On photos and video from Moscow, though, Lukashenko looked tired. After the parade, he was absent from a short walk by the leaders of about 300 meters (yards) from Red Square to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where they laid flowers. It was reported Lukashenko rode to the memorial on an electric cart.
He then skipped a Putin-hosted breakfast and flew home for the Victory Day ceremony in Minsk, although he failed to make a speech for the first time in years, delegating it to his defense minister.
Since then, he has canceled a government meeting on corruption and then, for the first time in years, failed to show up at an important state holiday — Sunday’s celebration of Flag Day. Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko read an address on his behalf.
No official comment has been received on the unusual absence of Lukashenko, who normally appears at events and meetings almost daily, giving long speeches.
Belarusian state media on Monday, released a video of Lukashenko inspecting an air force installation and photos on the presidential website showed him standing in a military jacket, taking a salute from an officer.
However, the video showed him sounding hoarse with a bandage wrapped on his left hand, although when he was in Red Square last week, his right hand was bandaged. Social media users noted how uncomfortable he looked.
Reacting to Lukashenko’s recent video, Financial Times journalist Max Seddon said it was an attempt to prove that he was not dead.
“In an attempt to show he is totally not dead, Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko makes his first public appearance in nearly a week. He is talking about Russian planes and helicopters shot down last weekend, seemingly confirming this is not stock video to be released in his absence”
While Belarusian news outlet Nexta, based in Poland, said Alexander Lukashenko’s photos will “become a new exhibit of the Museum of Wax Figures.”
“Your face when you haven’t died yet but you’ve already been made into a embalmed doll like Lenin,” it added.
“Seems like Lukashenko looks even worse than Brezhnev?” tweeted the Belarusian Hajun Project, referring to the former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev who died in 1982 and was seen as an aging leader who visibly declined in public.
“He speaks in a very hoarse voice. Probably, he couldn’t speak at all in the previous days, so (Viktor) Khrenin and (Roman) Golovchenko spoke instead of him,” it added, referring to Belarus’ defense minister and prime minister.
Pavel Latushka, a former government official turned opposition activist had reported that the 68-year-old ally of Putin had a viral infection with a complication of myocarditis—an inflammation of the heart muscle.
Another report by the Belarusian independent news outlet Euroradio said Lukashenko was taken to an elite clinic in Minsk.
Putin has reportedly kept Lukashenko in power, especially as the Belarusian leader, who has been president since 1994, and allegedly resorted to a brutal crackdown in which activists and politicians were jailed.
The election in August 2020 saw Lukashenko take 80 percent of the vote but it was seen by the U.S. and the EU as rigged. The disputed election sparked mass protests and a brutal clampdown by Lukashenko—who was backed by Putin. Opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, widely considered the real winner, went into exile.
Lukashenko has so far avoided taking a direct role in the war in Ukraine started by Putin but the Russian leader has used Belarusian territory as a staging post for his invasion.