Belarus president Lukashenko misses another event prompting speculation of illness

Belarus president Lukashenko misses another event prompting speculation of illness –

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, who has not been seen in public since 8 May, did not appear at a ceremony in the capital of Minsk on Sunday, triggering speculation the longtime leader is seriously ill.

The prime minister, Roman Golovchenko, read a message from Lukashenko during an annual ceremony at which young people swear allegiance to the ex-Soviet state’s flag, the BelTA state news agency reported.

It gave no reason for Lukashenko’s absence five days after he appeared unwell and skipped parts of the commemorations in Moscow marking the Soviet Union’s victory over Germany in the second world war.

Lukashenko also did not speak at an event in Minsk marking the Victory Day anniversary, for the first time in his long presidency. That event, last Tuesday, was the last time he was seen in public.

Lukashenko’s office has declined to comment.

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’”.

Russia’s Kommersant newspaper also published a story about Lukashenko’s health, citing Zatulin and Belarusian opposition media. Russian media rarely publishes stories about the health of the leaders of Russia or its allied neighbours.

Lukashenko, 68, has led Belarus since 1994, using police to put down protests, while courts closed dissident media outlets and imposed long jail terms on opponents, while activists fled the country en masse.

Lukashenko received backing from the Kremlin leader, Vladimir Putin, in stamping out protests, and last year he allowed his country’s territory to be used as part of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Belarus’ foreign minister, Sergei Aleinik, is expected on Monday to start a three-day visit to Moscow, Russia’s foreign ministry said last week.

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