Russia has refused to comment on the health of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko amid speculation that he is seriously ill.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday it was best to be guided on the subject by official statements from the Belarusian authorities.
Mr Lukashenko, 68, has not been seen in public since last Tuesday (9 May) at Victory Day events in Moscow, and later in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.
Konstantin Zatulin, first deputy of the Committee of CIS countries in Russia’s state Duma, confirmed to Sky News that Mr Lukashenko was ill.
“The fact that he was sick was obvious even during the parade in Moscow,” he said.
“I know that he is ill but I am not authorised to distribute his diagnosis.”
He added it was not COVID.
Mr Lukashenko failed to show up at a ceremony in Minsk – the annual Day of State Emblems celebration – on Sunday.
Instead, Belarus Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko read a message on the president’s behalf.
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Mr Lukashenko seemed to be unwell and had a bandage on his right hand whilst attending the stripped-down parade in Moscow last week, skipping parts of the commemoration that marks Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
He left Red Square in a buggy for the wreath-laying ceremony as other CIS country leaders accompanied Russia’s president Vladimir Putin by foot to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
On his return to Minsk, Mr Lukashenko attended another wreath-laying ceremony there, but for the first time in his long presidency did not give a Victory Day address.
Mr Lukashenko’s office has declined to comment.
Commenting on the rumours about Mr Lukashenko’s health, the leader of the Belarusian opposition in exile, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, tweeted that Belarusians “should be well prepared for any scenario… To turn Belarus on the path to democracy and to prevent Russia from interfering”.
Ms Tsikhanouskaya added: “We need the international community to be proactive and fast.”