The international rumor mill is in overdrive after Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday skipped festivities celebrating the ex-Soviet country's state symbols.
Lukashenko, a close ally of the Kremlin, has led Belarus since 1994, earning him the notoriety of being "last dictator in Europe."
Despite so many years before the public, the 68-year-old leader has not been seen in public for the past five days.
On Sunday, the former Soviet country paid tribute to three state symbols including its flag and anthem but the country’s leader was nowhere to be seen.
Standing in a central Minsk square, Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko congratulated Belarusians on behalf of Lukashenko during a televised ceremony.
Lukashenko missed the ceremony of honoring Belarus state flag, symbol and anthem this morning.— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) May 14, 2023
The prime minister said a speech instead of Lukashenko.
Belarus opposition media report that Lukashenko was spotted in a hospital and doctors from Moscow arrived to him. pic.twitter.com/YS9xuUD3Sc
During the May 9 "Victory Day" celebrations in Moscow, Lukashenko was seen talking to Vladimir Putin and, according to Russian news sources, Lukashenko had requested that a car come to carry him the 100 meters to where a flower laying ceremony was to take place.
Putin is seen then calling to an assistant. Russian government news reports, unceremoniously, wrote on May 9 that after the event, the visiting foreign leaders had lunch - but "Lukashenko was not there."
Many journalists noted that Lukashenko looked tired in Moscow and skipped a lunch hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin and attended by the leaders of Armenia and Central Asian countries.
Andrei Kolesnikov, a Kremlin pool reporter for the Russian newspaper Kommersant, wrote that Lukashenko looked "unwell" and had to be driven near the Kremlin in an electric car.
It is thought that Lukashenko headed straight to the airport after the parade so that he could be flown back to Minsk.
#Belarus Lukashenka’s motorcade reportedly went to a hospital but left after two hours. The secrecy around his health is not new yet they don’t even try to calm down the elites or the Kremlin. If they don’t reveal any information about his health, it might be really serious. pic.twitter.com/9uG4B7IdYA— Hanna Liubakova (@HannaLiubakova) May 13, 2023
Lukashenko is rumored to suffer from a wide number of ailments, including with his heartand is said to have had a heart attack a couple of years ago.
One Belarussian opposition campaigner told the Kyiv Post that around April 24-25, Lukashenko's former 2020 presidential election rival, Viktor Babariko, who is a political prisoner, had been taken to the hospital.
5️⃣ days without #Lukashenko.— Pavel Latushka (@PavelLatushka) May 14, 2023
Today is Lukashenko's flag day. And again he is absent from the ceremony.
This is the first time in 29 years that the usurper has not appeared in public for so many days.
His present whereabouts are unknown. pic.twitter.com/5oP7Ruf0k3
The opposition campaigner said Barbariko was rumored to have been hospitalized due to injuries received during a government ordered beat-down. Eliminating opponents before a transition of power would be consistent with how politics are played in the dictatorships of the post-Soviet space.
Around the same time, Lukashenko's public appearances became scarcer and observers noticed bandages on the 68 year-old's hand. The bandages led to a wide number of rumours, including that the ailing dictator had some form of cancer and that the bandages were meant to hide where chemotherapy would enter his body.
Lukashenko's spokespeople have not commented on his recent whereabouts.
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