Parade in Minsk marks Independence Day
A pompous military parade marking Belarus' Independence Day and the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the country in World War II was staged in front of the Hero City Minsk obelisk at the center of the Belarusian capital on July 3 with dozens of thousands in attendance.
More than 40 military aircraft roared overhead as troops, tanks and vehicles filed past Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his five-year-old son Kolya, who was dressed in a specially tailored military uniform and performing a military hand salute.
The parade, broadcast live by all national television channels, was commanded by Deputy Defense Minister Yury Merantsow and reviewed by Defense Minister Leanid Maltsaw.
Two Mi-8 helicopters flew over the area, with one of them displaying a huge state flag and the other displaying a banner highlighting the liberation anniversary.
Nine open UAZ-469 4x4 vehicles carrying World War II veterans ran past the Belarusian leadership and other VIPs.
The parade, which involved more than 4,600 servicemen and cadets, traditionally started with a march of a group of young drummers from the Minsk Suvorov Military School, and culminated in a drill show by an elite company of honor guards and a performance by a military brass band.
The military parade was followed by a civilian procession intended to show the happy life of the Belarusians. More than 4,500 people, including renowned sports stars and young athletes, paraded past the stands, displaying red-green flags and releasing red and green balloons into the air.
"The will of the people and their respect for their heroic history, not paper declarations and statements by so-called national leaders, are the sources of Belarusian sovereignty," Mr. Lukashenka said in his address preceding the parade.
"In order to overcome the global financial and economic crisis, prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and combat extremism and terrorism, the international community should unite its efforts and consistently follow a just and peaceful policy," the Belarusian leader said. "There should be no super powers in the world, which would grant themselves the right to dictate terms to sovereign and independent states as to how they should live. Each nation has the right to choose its path of development. This is a fundamental principle of international relations."
Belarus aims to develop mutually beneficial cooperation with all states and consistently pursues a multi-vector foreign policy, but "unfortunately, there have lately been attempts to interpret" this policy as "something close to betrayal of allies on the part of Belarus," Mr. Lukashenka said.
"Enemies of Belarusian-Russian integration do not abandon their intention to drive a wedge in our relations," he noted. "I have repeatedly said and will stress now once again – and want the Russians and the leaders of Russia to hear this – that Belarus does not trade in friendship with Russia. We are brotherly nations. We are one nation. Our common great victory and today’s anniversary, which symbolizes the joint contribution to the defeat of the aggressor and the liberation of our nations and all humankind from the Nazi enslavement, are a thousand times more weighty than our differences and mutual grudges."
An economic collapse and social disturbances have many times been forecast for Belarus in the last 15 years, "but we have sufficient endurance capacity," Mr. Lukashenka said. "Peace and concord in society are being reliably ensured in Belarus. In order that things will stay as they are, we consistently and persistently strengthen our national security, including our defense capability."