As health rumors swirl, Lukashenko video released

STORY: Belarusian state media released this video of President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday (May 15), after speculation about his health intensified over the weekend.

The video purports to show the 68-year-old at a military command center, in what would be his first public appearance in almost a week.

Dressed in a military uniform, Lukashenko is seated in a chair, speaking with officers.

He appears to have a bandage on his left hand and is short of breath at times.

He had not been pictured in public since he reviewed Russia's annual military parade on Moscow's Red Square on May 9.

He later skipped a lunch hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin and opted to drive over the traditional post-parade stroll.

On Sunday, Lukashenko missed a ceremony in Minsk amid unconfirmed media reports that he had been hospitalized.

Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994.

If he is incapacitated and unable to rule, his job is passed in a caretaker capacity to the speaker of the upper house of parliament until new elections are held.

Lukashenko's office has declined to comment on his absence.

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.