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Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

Photo of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko published after he missed key events

Photo of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko published after he missed key events

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had not been seen in public for almost a week - fuelling speculation he was ill. But a photo of the leader has now been published by a state news channel to push back against the rumours.
A photo of Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, has been published by a national state news channel after speculation that he was seriously ill.

The Belarusian outlet, Pul Pervogo, posted the photo of the 68-year-old on its Telegram channel - which is known for reporting on the president - after his whereabouts were unknown for almost a week.

The channel said the president was working at a central air force command base.

In the post, he is standing stern-faced as he receives a salute with a bandage tied to his left hand.

Mr Lukashenko had not been seen in public since last Tuesday (9 May) at Victory Day events in Moscow, and later in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

The last public photo of him at the Russian ceremony showed him appearing unwell with his right hand bandaged up.

Konstantin Zatulin, first deputy of the Committee of CIS countries in Russia's state Duma, confirmed to Sky News that Mr Lukashenko was ill.

"The fact that he was sick was obvious even during the parade in Moscow," he said.

"I know that he is ill but I am not authorised to distribute his diagnosis."

He added it was not COVID.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin would not be drawn into matters of his health - saying there had been no official news from Belarus.

Mr Lukashenko also failed to show up at a ceremony in Minsk - the annual Day of State Emblems celebration - on Sunday.

Instead, the prime minister, Roman Golovchenko, read a message on the president's behalf.

Mr Lukashenko seemed to be ill while attending the stripped-down parade in Moscow last week, skipping parts of the commemoration that marks Russia's victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

He left Red Square in a buggy for the wreath-laying ceremony as other CIS country leaders accompanied Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, on foot to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On his return to Minsk, Mr Lukashenko attended another wreath-laying ceremony there, but for the first time in his long presidency did not give a Victory Day address.

Mr Lukashenko's office has declined to comment.

Commenting on the rumours about Mr Lukashenko's health, the leader of the Belarusian opposition in exile, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, tweeted that Belarusians "should be well prepared for any scenario... To turn Belarus on the path to democracy and to prevent Russia from interfering".

Ms Tsikhanouskaya added: "We need the international community to be proactive and fast."
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