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Belarus defies virus outbreak as tens of thousands attend Victory Day parade

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People attend the Victory Day military parade that marked the 75th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany, in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, May 9, 2020
People attend the Victory Day military parade that marked the 75th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany, in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, May 9, 2020   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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A full military parade of some 3,000 soldiers was held today in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

The country which not imposed restrictions to halt the coronavirus spread despite sharply rising infection figures.

Tens of thousands of spectators, few of them wearing masks, watched the event.

Some war veterans in the stands wore masks, but in general there were few masks to be seen in the throng of spectators.

President Alexander Lukashenko has consistently dismissed concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, calling it a “psychosis”, even though the number of infections reported in his country overtook neighbouring Ukraine, which has four times as many people.

So far, Belarus, a country of about 9 million people, has recorded more than 21,000 cases of coronavirus infection and more than 120 deaths.

It was also one of the few countries that did not stop the football championship, keeping at the same time its shops, churches and restaurants open.

At the parade, Prime Minister Lukashenko maintained that "we didn't have a choice and even if we had it, we would have done the same" to pass in the eyes of Soviet soldiers who fought to defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

The war, in which the Soviet Union lost an estimated 26 million people including 8.5 million soldiers, massively affected the territory of Belarus.

Neighbouring Russia postponed the commemorations to a later date, opting for a low-scale ceremony.

The World Health Organization had previously called for finding "alternative solutions" to celebrate the 75 years of the Nazi-Germany defeat.