A national newsreader has delivered a televised Independence Day speech on behalf of ailing President Islam Karimov, who remains hospitalized in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, with a suspected brain hemorrhage.

The surprise substitution reflected rising political uncertainty in Uzbekistan, which observed its national holiday Thursday. It was Karimov's first-ever absence from the celebrations.

Karimov has run an authoritarian regime in the Central Asian nation since 1989, suppressing opposition and cultivating no apparent successor. He hasn't been seen in public since mid-August, and his government last weekend admitted he was ill. His daughter on Monday said he had suffered a brain hemorrhage.

Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyayev led the start of independence-related events Wednesday. Other events have reportedly been cancelled, including a concert and a fireworks display.