Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko appears to have been struck down by a mystery illness and was rushed back to Belarus shortly after attending the May 9 Victory Day celebrations on Red Square in Moscow.
The Belarusian strongman, who was one of the few foreign dignitaries to attend the 78th celebration of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, skipped the traditional formal guest breakfast on the day of the parade and was rushed to the airport to fly home as soon as the parade was over.
Belarusian media also reported that Lukashenko chose not to walk with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other visiting heads of state to the flame of Unknown Soldier monument that is just outside the Kremlin walls, the traditional last part of the May 9 celebration. Instead, he was driven to the memorial in an electric cart, despite the distance being only about 300 metres, Meduza reports.
One outlet speculated that a bandage was visible on Lukashenko's hand during the parade and might have held an IV catheter.
Lukashenko's absence at the breakfast was noted, with Belarusian political scientist Dmitry Bolkunets pointing out that an ambulance accompanied Lukashenko's convoy to the airport as he left Moscow, Meduza reports.
Russian and Belarusian authorities have not yet commented on Lukashenko's absence or early departure.
This is not the first time that Lukashenko has been visibly ill with an unknown, but apparently serious condition. During the coronavirus pandemic in 2021 he appeared on TV with what appeared to be an IV catheter bandage on his wrist, as shown by images captured by the opposition Telegram channel Nexta.
Lukashenko's office made no comment on speculation that he was suffering from the virus and if so he apparently made a full recovery.
The 68-year-old Belarusian leader has been president since July 1994, when he became the country’s first president. Before taking office he was the director of a state farm and likes to project an image as an average working man who regularly is shown on state TV in the fields picking melons and carrots.
He also regularly plays ice hockey, and played several times on a team that included President Vladimir Putin.
Lukashenko has been ostracised since his brutal repression of mass demonstrations following a blatantly fixed presidential election in august 2020 that returned him to office as president.