Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko appeared in public on Tuesday, trying to deny rumors that he is seriously ill. “I’m not going to die, guys,” he said in a video on state media.
Rumors of illness and speculation about the health of the long-time Belarusian leader emerged after he appeared tired and somewhat unsteady at a May 9 military parade in Moscow.
The 68-year-old Lukashenko made his first appearance since the parade last week when he met representatives of the Belarusian army in Minsk, dressed in a military uniform.
This time he appeared at a meeting devoted to health issues and said he had contracted adenovirus, which is the common cold virus.
“If anyone thinks I’m going to die, let them calm down,” Lukashenko said in a somewhat hoarse voice, explaining that the cold only lasted three days, but he was too busy to take a break. “I will not die, boys. You will have to fight me for a very long time,” he added at the meeting, which was broadcast by state media Pul Pervovo, which regularly monitors the president’s activities.
Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tihanovska, who lives in exile, told her supporters on Monday to be ready for any opportunity to change the country to democracy.
Lukashenko has been the head of Belarus since 1994 and has ruled the country with a firm hand ever since. He is considered one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies and last year allowed Russian forces to use Belarusian territory to attack Ukraine.