Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko was seen struggling to speak in a video shared today amid rumours about his ailing health.
Appearing hoarse and struggling to breathe, he rambled to military chiefs on the shooting down of four combat aircraft in Russia on Saturday, apparently unsure of how long his own forces had been on high alert.
He said: ‘The troops are on high combat alert for the fourth day, or the third day.’
Lukashenko, whose disappearance from the public eye on 9 May prompted rumours of ill-health, was seen for the first time in nearly a week this afternoon, posing in a military uniform in what the Pul Pervovo Telegram channel says is a central air force command base.
The 68-year-old appeared to have a bandage or IV catheter on his left wrist.
His office has refused to comment on mounting health concerns.
On a visit to Moscow on Tuesday last week, a bandage was seen on his right wrist.
Rumours suggest he was rushed to hospital in Minsk after returning from Moscow where he appeared at Vladimir Putin’s Red Square military parade marking Victory Day.
The autocrat appeared unable to walk a distance less than a quarter of a mile on Red Square after the parade – and was seen pleading with Putin to provide him a buggy over the cobbled stones to lay flowers at the Time of the Unknown Soldier.
Lukashenko was said to be working today ‘at the central command point of Belarussian Air Forces, and Air Defence forces’.
He was quoted as telling officers: ‘Let’s go without big reports. Let’s have a look at what’s happening around our country.’
But he also said: ‘Three days past after the events near us – I mean what happened in the Bryansk region [of Russia], when four aircraft were shot down.
‘We are forced to react. Since then, we have been on high alert, our troops.’
Many believe Russian air defences shot down their own planes in the Bryansk region which borders both Belarus and Ukraine.
Multiple theories had emerged over Lukashenko ranging from heart trouble to a serious viral infection or even poisoning.
Putin’s former speech writer Abbas Gallyamov said it was possible the Kremlin leader’s secret services had sought to assassinate him because he was not sufficiently supportive of the war.
The Belarus exiled opposition was preparing a plan in case of his death, said leading foe Pavel Latushka.
BneIntellNews reported: ‘The Belarus strongman is clearly seriously ill and some are asking if he is already dead.’
Yet other sources had reported he was ill and required surgery but would recover.
He required assistance from specialists from Moscow’s prestigious Bakulev Center for Cardiovascular Surgery who flew to Minsk, said one version.
His office refused to comment until today’s single photograph, causing rumours to escalate.
An unconfirmed account was that Lukashenko came through “unpleasant” surgery unrelated to his heart and is stable.
Belarus expert, Russian pro-war academic Andrey Suzdaltsev, said: ‘Lukashenko came well through the surgery. He is feeling not bad…he is recovering.’
The operation ‘was not on the heart. There was another unpleasant, but common diagnosis’.
If today’s picture is genuine, it showed no obvious sign of major surgery.
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