For several days now speculation has been rife that Alexander Lukashenka could be seriously and perhaps even fatally ill. The Belarusian leader was visibly ailing at the celebrations in Moscow on 9 May, after which he wasn't seen for almost a week. Then on Monday he visited an air force installation, looking pale and speaking very quietly. Commentators wonder what would happen if he was gone.

Death could trigger risky situation

The world must prepare for a dynamic of change if Lukashenka dies, Poland’s wPolityce warns:

“There is talk of a heart attack, and opposition leaders Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Pavel Latushka are preparing for the death of the ruler. ... The paradox of this whole situation is that the currently internationally unrecognized dictator seems to be the guarantor of stability in Belarus, and his departure could mark the beginning of dynamic and thus risky scenarios. There is no doubt that the moment will come when the official Belarusian media will mourn Lukashenka, and we should be prepared for that.”

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Moscow wants to rule in Minsk

Putin may take advantage of Lukashenka's weakened state of health, Portugal’s Visão surmises:

“All sorts of scenarios are circulating: that he has been poisoned, that he is dead, that he has suffered a stroke, that he is in a deep coma. What is certain is that it would be very pleasing for Moscow to take power in Minsk directly and, in particular, get rid of the country's military leadership which refuses to invade Ukraine. ... In the old Soviet tradition, the fate of the leaders was always in the hands of the party - which in this case is Putin.”

Chinese Troops Kick Off Joint ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Exercise in Belarus, Opposite NATO’s Eastern Border
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Chinese Troops Kick Off Joint ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Exercise in Belarus, Opposite NATO’s Eastern Border

Both Minsk and Beijing said the training was scheduled a long ago and the China’s force projection to the Atlantic Alliance’s eastern frontier was peaceful and not provocative.

Shampanskoye already cooling in the fridge

Belarus is in a state of eager anticipation, notes Iryna Chalip, Belarus correspondent for Russian Novaya Gazeta Europa:

“No one knows exactly what's going on with Lukashenka. But as strange as it may seem, that is not what really matters. What counts is the reaction of the Belarusians: the joy which was forgotten over the last unbearable years, the caustic jokes and comments, the hints about soon-to-be-uncorked bottles of shampanskoye. Even those who dreamed that Lukashenka would be tried and then live a long time - in prison, of course - are willing to forego that process. ... If I were Lukashenka, I'd already die just realizing how much the people hate me and the hell into which the country has been plunged. It's impossible to live when you know how deeply you are hated by millions and that the day you die will be a day of celebration for everyone.”

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