Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko collapsed for a second time this month after a meeting with President Vladimir Putin and was hospitalised in Moscow on May 27.
Valery Tsepkalo, Belarusian opposition leader, said that after his meeting with Putin Lukashenko was taken to the Central Clinical Hospital of Moscow in critical condition.
"According to the information we have, which needs additional confirmation, Lukashenko, after meeting with Putin behind closed doors, was urgently taken to the Central Clinical Hospital of Moscow, where he is now located,” Tsepkalo, a prominent opposition figure and former presidential candidate, said on Telegram as cited by Ukrainska Pravda. “The best specialists were sent to return him from a condition assessed by doctors as critical. His blood was purified, Lukashenko's condition was proclaimed [and he is] not transportable.”
The Belarusian leader was in Moscow to attend the annual Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) summit together with the leaders from Central Asia and Armenia.
Lukashenko was clearly unwell when he attended the May 9 Victory Parade in Moscow and was rushed from the ceremony on Red Square to the airport to be hospitalised in Minsk, leading some to speculate he had died.
Video from the parade showed Lukashenko as clearly unwell and what appeared to be an IV catheter on his arm under his coat.
However, the Belarusian strongman reappeared a few days later on May 15 in a televised meeting with his military leadership, but appeared to be groggy and spoke with some trouble.
The presidential administration has released no information on what ails the president, but unconfirmed rumours that he had caught a virus that had affected his heart have been swirling on social media in recent weeks. Lukashenko admitted in public on May 23 that he was absent from the public arena due to illness, but said that he was not going to die.
“Adenovirus or whatever it was? Adenovirus. It’s nothing... But since I didn’t have the opportunity to receive treatment... all of it accumulated,” Lukashenko said. “So I’m not planning to die, guys. You’ll be tormenting yourselves with me for a very long time.”
Adenoviruses can elicit a broad spectrum of ailments in humans, ranging from acute respiratory infections to severe conditions in individuals with weakened immune systems.
Following Lukashenko’s second collapse in Moscow this month, new rumours are swirling that he was poisoned by the Kremlin. However, analyst say this is a very unlikely scenario, as the Kremlin does not want to see Belarus thrown into chaos by a succession struggle and especially would not like to see fresh presidential elections that could spark a fresh wave of mass protests similar to those that followed by the massively falsified elections in August 2020 that returned Lukashenko to office. However, Lukashenko is clearly very ill.
“The organised measures to save the Belarusian dictator were intended to ward off speculation about the possible participation of the Kremlin in his poisoning. It does not matter whether he returns to working condition or not, doctors warn of a possible recurrence of relapses,” Tsepkalo said.
The day before, Lukashenko participated in the EAEU forum in Moscow and caused a flurry by announcing that Russian nuclear weapons were being transported to Belarus within the framework of an earlier Kremlin agreement.
Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya called on Belarus’ opposition and people to “be ready for any scenario.”
While opposition leaders hope that Lukashenko’s death will lead to new elections and another chance to change the regime, Lukashenko has tightened his control over the republic in the last two years.
“As representatives of the Belarus Democratic Forum of the Republic of Belarus, we earnestly urge Western leaders to convene a strategic session in the coming days to discuss the "Elections" initiative and other measures that should be undertaken in order to secure the transitional period,” Tsepkalo said on Telegrapm. “We firmly assert that the existing technologies are adequate for conducting fair and transparent elections in Belarus in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without direct interference from the Kremlin. By doing so, we will establish a legitimate institution in the eyes of all Belarusians and the global community at large. Holding elections during such a critical juncture will not only help restore law and order in the future Belarus but also lay the groundwork for stabilising the situation on the borders of the European Union and the world.”
However, in April Lukashenko issued a decree saying that in the event of his death the Security Council of Belarus should take over running the country and not the prime minister, as according to the constitution.
The council is a powerful body headed by the chief of the KGB security services, Alexander Volfovich, who is a key ally of Lukashenko, and pro-Russian.
Amongst Lukashenko’s civilian loyalists, Natalya Kochanova, the head of the upper chamber of the nation’s parliament, also stands out, as it appears Lukashenko has been grooming her as a possible successor. She supported Lukashenko's crackdowns following the 2020 demonstrations, calling him “a wise and experienced politician” to whom she’s pledged loyalty “for the rest of her life.” Lukashenko called her an “almost a ready-made president” in 2020, as cited by Politico.
Lukashenko has been trying to change the constitution so that he could stand down as president but then be automatically appointed as permanent head of the Belarusian People’s Assembly, which has no powers at all until a recent reform in 2022 in a constitutional referendum, where it was upgraded. However, Lukashenko has been unable to complete these changes.