Speculation is mounting that Vladimir Putin’s close war ally, the Belarusian tyrant Alexander Lukashenko, is seriously ill – or even dead.
He has not been seen in public since he was taken to Moscow airport with an ambulance in tow after taking part in Russia’s Victory Day military parade on Tuesday.
Pictures of him at the parade show him visibly exhausted, with his hand bandaged.
The 68-year-old puppet leader has been rumored to have been admitted to an elite clinic in Minsk, claiming he is “in a medical coma”.
Putin – who is also the subject of health rumors – was reportedly shocked by Lukashenko’s condition in Moscow and tried to phone him upon his return to Minsk but was unable to get through.
According to some rumours, Lukashenko suffered a heart attack, problems related to Covid – or even poisoning.
Belarusian opposition leader Pavel Latushka said: “He has been gone for four days now. Sick, poisoned, simulating?
“We [the opposition] are working on implementing a plan in the event of Lukashenko’s death.”
A report, unconfirmed today, says Lukashenko has survived an “uncomfortable” surgery unrelated to his heart and is stable.
His office did not comment, leading to an escalation of the rumors.
Belarusian expert, pro-Russian pro-war Andrey Suzdaltsev said: “Lukashenko survived the operation well. He’s not bad…he’s recovering.”
In the days leading up to his disappearance from public view, Lukashenko appeared unable to walk less than a quarter-mile in Red Square after the parade.
He is also rumored to have publicly asked Putin to let him take a stroller across the cobblestones to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Later that same day, he failed to speak at his own Victory Day event in Minsk due to state media broadcasting footage of him from the previous year.
New footage of him just days before his disappearance shows him walking slowly and awkwardly with his three sons.
At one point, Lukashenko kept his hand tight on his chest while his son Viktor threw a worried look in his direction while his other son Nikolai clenched his fists.
Russian Telegram channels hinted that Lukashenko was suffering from a “long-standing but unspecified medical condition” that required surgery.
A broadcaster claimed: “The Belarusian leader is in the hospital, he is being prepared for an operation – and perhaps the operation has already been performed.”
Some reports suggest he needs a Western operation but is unable to get it due to sanctions over his rigging of Belarus’ 2020 presidential election and supporting Putin in the war against Ukraine.
Ukrainian source Unian claimed the obese dictator, who has ruled Belarus for nearly three decades, suffers from “very serious endocrine system disorders and heart disease”.
Russian sources believe Lukashenko previously feigned illness to avoid being pressured by Putin.
The Belarusian leader has allowed Russian troops and air power to be deployed in his inland territory bordering Ukraine, but has not deployed his troops to the war.
He has also opposed Putin’s attempt to fully incorporate Belarus into Russia.
In 2020, Lukashenko secured a landslide victory by mass-rigging the ballot in an election won overwhelmingly by the exiled opposition candidate Svitlana Tikhanovskaya.
His eldest son Viktor, 47, a senior security official, may seek to continue the tyrannical Lukashenko dynasty, relying on Moscow’s support to do so.
The dictator’s death could result in Putin attempting to integrate Belarus into Russia, including through military force.