Rumors of a health scare for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko have prompted the democratic opposition-in-exile to start work on new plans for a potentially rapid and chaotic change of power, the movement’s leader has told Newsweek.
On the sidelines of the Copenhagen Democracy Summit in the Danish capital on Monday, Belarusian pro-democratic leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told Newsweek that Lukashenko’s condition is not thought to be “life-threatening.”
However, she said that the uncertainty around Lukashenko’s health raises the prospect of political “chaos” in Belarus that both his allies in Russia and his enemies abroad will be looking to exploit.
There has been much speculation as to the health of Lukashenko, 68, since his appearance at the Moscow Victory Day celebrations on May 9, where observers noted a bandage on the leader’s right arm. Lukashenko was absent from portions of the ceremony and was the only leader of the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States that did not lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Until Monday, Lukashenko had not been seen in public for nearly a week, and on Sunday missed an annual ceremony at which young people swear allegiance to the Belarusian flag. Belarusian opposition media has reported that Lukashenko visited a Minsk clinic this weekend, where he stayed for two hours.
“It showed us that there is a necessity to work out a very fast reaction just in case this happens,” Tsikhanouskaya told Newsweek of the prospect of Lukashenko’s loss of power, whether through death, incapacity, coup, or voluntary handover of