Thousands of soldiers marched in Belarus on Saturday to celebrate the Soviet victory in World War Two, as President Alexander Lukashenko rejected calls for lockdown measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported.
Lukashenko, who has ruled the eastern European country since 1994, has called fears over the coronavirus a “psychosis” and variously suggested drinking vodka, visiting saunas or playing ice hockey to beat the disease.
Spectators in stands in the capital Minsk, a few of whom wore masks, looked on as soldiers marched, tanks rolled past and Su-30 fighter jets flew in formation overhead.
Lukashenko’s insistence on going ahead with the display contrasted with neighbour Russia, which scaled back celebrations amid a jump in coronavirus cases and postponed its usual massive military parade on Red Square.
Dressed in military uniform and surrounded by generals, Lukashenko said it was unacceptable for Belarus to even think about cancelling the parade.
“There will be people who will condemn us,” Lukashenko said. He told such critics: “do not rush to draw conclusions, let alone condemn us, the heirs of the Victory, the Belarusians … We simply could not асt differently, we had no other choice.”
Belarus has not imposed lockdown measures or social distancing rules, and kept its borders open while countries around the world have closed them.