A photo of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been published by a state news outlet after growing speculation over his health.
The photo, posted on the Telegram channel of Pul Pervovo, a news outlet reporting on Lukashenko’s activities, featured him wearing a bandage on his left hand. It said the president was working at a military command base.
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On Sunday, BeLTA state news agency reported that Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko read a message from Lukashenko, 68, during an annual ceremony at which young people swear their allegiance to the flag.
According to the opposition news outlet Euroradio, Lukashenko was taken to an elite Minsk clinic on Saturday.
A Russian online publication, Podyom, quoted a senior member of the Duma lower house of parliament, Konstantin Zatulin, as saying that “[Lukashenko] has simply fallen ill … and probably needs a rest.”
The last time Lukashenko was seen in public was on Tuesday during Russia’s annual Victory Day celebrations in Moscow. Rumours began to circulate then after reports that he looked tired and unsteady as he skipped a lunch hosted by President Vladimir Putin.
The Belarusian leader also did not speak at an event in Minsk marking the anniversary of him taking up the presidency.
On Monday, the Kremlin said there had been no official announcement from Minsk about Lukashenko’s health. It said it was best to be guided by official statements from the Belarusian authorities.
Lukashenko has become more dependent on Russia for energy and loans since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year.
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told her supporters to be prepared for “every scenario” in response to the growing rumours surrounding Lukashenko’s health.
On Twitter, she wrote: “There are many rumours about the dictator Lukashenko’s health. For us, it means only one thing: we should be well prepared for every scenario. To turn Belarus on the path to democracy & to prevent Russia from interfering. We need the international community to be proactive & fast.”
There are many rumors about the dictator Lukashenka's health. For us, it means only one thing: we should be well prepared for every scenario. To turn Belarus on the path to democracy & to prevent Russia from interfering. We need the international community to be proactive & fast. pic.twitter.com/qfnsnPYBMZ
— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) May 15, 2023
On Sunday, Franak Viacorka, an adviser to Tsikhanouskaya, said the opposition was working on a joint action plan “with democratic forces” for “when something happens”.
Under the Belarusian constitution, if Lukashenko cannot rule, his job is passed in a caretaker capacity to the speaker of the upper house of parliament until an elections is held.
The current speaker is Natalya Kochanova, Lukashenko’s former chief of staff, who is regarded as a loyalist and hardliner.
Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, has used his powers to put down protests and impose lengthy jail terms on opponents.