Lukashenko health rumours swirl amid claim he was hospitalised after meeting Putin

Lukashenko administration has been releasing pictures, videos and interviews to try and dispel health rumours

Shweta Sharma
Monday 29 May 2023 15:14 BST
Alexander Lukashenkoabsent from counry's state celebration

Rumours are again circulating about the health of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, less than a week after he insisted he was “not going to die” on state TV.

Valery Tsepkalo, a 2020 Belarusian presidential candidate and opposition leader, claimed in a Telegram post at the weekend that the 68-year-old Mr Lukashenko was in hospital in Moscow in “critical condition” following a meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Speculation about the Belarusian leader’s health began earlier this month after he appeared at Victory Day celebrations in Moscow’s Red Square on 9 May with a bandage on his right hand and looked unsteady on his feet. He missed the lunch hosted by Mr Putin.

Later that week on Sunday, the autocratic leader of Belarus did not address the annual celebration of National Flag, Emblem, and Anthem Day as he usually does, with his prime minister reading a message on his behalf instead.

Mr Tsepkalo claimed that the Belarusian leader was “urgently transported to Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital after his closed-door meeting with Putin”, while admitting that the information was “subject to further confirmation”.

“Currently, he remains under medical care there. Leading specialists have been mobilised to address his critical condition. Blood purification procedures have been conducted, and Lukashenko’s condition has been deemed non-transportable,” he said..

Mr Tsepkalo also rejected the “orchestrated efforts” by the Belarusian government to downplay concerns around Mr Lukashenko’s health, and called it an attempt to save the Kremlin from blame over its “alleged involvement in his poisoning”.

After Mr Tsepkalo’s post was widely shared on Telegram and Twitter, the Belarusian authorities released pictures and videos of Mr Lukashenko but observers have raised questions over the timing of when they were taken.

The pictures posted on a Telegram channel linked to Lukashenko’s administration showed him visiting a military command centre, with his left arm heavily bandaged. In the 9 May pictures from Red Square, he appeared with bandages on his right arm.

Footage of him from the same visit showed him holding a meeting with personnel about the security situation in the country.

“As I understand, the situation is not critical, but nevertheless worrying,” he said, as he appeared to speak with difficulty in a meeting with generals.

Last Tuesday Mr Lukashenko addressed the rumours about his health during a meeting with state officials that was broadcast by state-run outlet Pul Pervovo. Sounding hoarse, Mr Lukashenko said he had been suffering from a common cold virus and added: "I’m not going to die, guys.

“If someone thinks I’m about to die – calm down. Calm down,” he added. “It’s nothing more than chatter on messengers and Telegram channels.”

In an interview that was aired on Russia’s state television late on Sunday, Mr Lukashenko said that if any other country wanted to join a Russia-Belarus union there could be “nuclear weapons for everyone”. It comes after Mr Lukashenko allowed Russia to go ahead with plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, in the Kremlin’s first deployment of such warheads outside Russia since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

It is not known when the interview was filmed.

Mr Lukashenko is often dubbed the last dictator of Europe and has ruled Belarus since 1994. Activists have fled the country en masse since a crackdown on protesters and dissenting voices following the 2020 presidential election, which observers described as rigged after Mr Lukashenko claimed to have won more than 81 per cent of the vote.

He is a close ally of the Russian president and allowed Russian forces to use Belarus’s borders with Ukraine as a launchpad for its invasion in February 2022. He is the only foreign leader who has regularly sat down with Mr Putin since the invasion began, with the pair meeting at least 14 times.

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