Belarus marks 65th anniversary of end of Nazi occupation

MINSK: Belarus yesterday marked the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Minsk from Nazi forces with a Soviet-style military parade and a rousing speech by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Some 160 tanks, armored vehicles and artillery pieces rolled through the centre of the Belarussian capital in a two-and-a-half hour parade that also included warplanes and soldiers in World War II-era uniforms.

The parade was meant to honor the liberation of Minsk on July 3, 1944, which Belarus now commemorates with the annual Independence Day holiday.

On that day Soviet troops retook Minsk from the Germans as part of Operation Bagration, a massive military operation to recapture the western Soviet Union from Nazi German occupation.

Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic for the past 15 years, and his four-year-old son Kolya, who accompanies his father to many official events, both attended the ceremonies dressed in military uniform.

In his speech Lukashenko stressed that Belarus had a tight bond with Russia despite recent tensions between the two allies.

Belarus will not sell its friendship with Russia. We are brotherly people, we are one people, and our joint contribution to the liberation from fascist enslavement outweighs grievances against each other," he said.

The Belarussian leader said his "multi-vector" foreign policy-a reference to his efforts to boost ties with the European Union and the United States-should not be construed as a "betrayal" of Belarus's allies.

Russia has expressed anger at Belarus's decision to join the EU's Eastern Partnership program, which is aimed at tightening relations between the European bloc and six former Soviet states.

Lukashenko in turn has become increasingly critical of Russia, which has long been a close ally of Belarus and helped subsidize its economy.--- AFP



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