Belarus leader appears in public, dismisses talk of bad illness

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko meets with governor of Russia's Vladimir Region Alexander Avdeyev in Minsk

(Reuters) - Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko appeared in public on Tuesday and dismissed talk he was seriously ill, telling officials, "I'm not going to die, guys," according to a video shown by a state-run media outlet said.

Lukashenko, 68, is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest allies. Rumours about the state of his health have circulated since he appeared at a military parade in Moscow on May 9, looking tired and a little unsteady.

Lukashenko, sounding hoarse, told a meeting on health issues that he had been suffering from an adenovirus, which is a common cold virus. Footage of the encounter was broadcast by Pul Pervovo, a state outlet that reports on Lukashenko's activities.

"If someone thinks I am going to die, calm down," Lukashenko said, adding that while it only took three days to recover from such a virus, he had been too busy to take time off immediately.

"I'm not going to die, guys. You'll have to struggle with me for a very long time to come," he said.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told her supporters on Monday to be ready to grab any chance to turn her country into a democracy.

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron first since 1994, last year allowed Russian forces to use his country as a launch pad for the invasion of Ukraine.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)