The military parade on May 9 has become a political issue

Category status:
- (The situation has deteriorated)
27-03.05.2020
Фота Ўладзя Грыдзіна, RFE/RL

By Andrei Parotnikau

In the coming week, Minsk will decide on the format of V-Day celebrations on May 9th. The original scenario is no longer relevant, yet the authorities do not seem to be ready to alter it.

Initially, the military parade in Minsk was scheduled for the afternoon of May 9th, so that President Lukashenka could attend the parade in Moscow and return to host a local one. However, the format of the event has been subjected to several changes since.

For instance, the plan was to invite armies of the states which participated in the Anti-Hitler coalition to participate in the Minsk parade. However, due to the Russian army’s participation in the celebrations, the only member of the allied coalition who agreed to send its troops to Minsk, was China.

Then, Russia postponed its military parade due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Traditional military parades in Belarus often cause discontent among part of society. This year, the situation is aggravated by the Covid-19 epidemic, 78% of Belarusians support the idea of canceling all mass public events. On April 29th, 2020, the WHO recommended that the Belarusian authorities postponed all mass events, including political ones.

On April 30th, 2020 it became known that Belarus would receive EU assistance to combat the COVID-19 outbreak only in the case of compliance with the WHO recommendations. On the same day, Russia and China, referring to an unfavorable epidemiological situation, revoked their decisions to participate in the military parade in Minsk. Besides, it was reported that some Belarusian regions canceled mass public events.

The May 9th parade is considered by the ruling elite not only as part of memorial events, but also as a significant public ritual, and, this year, an element of Lukashenka’s election campaign. The problem is that holding the event in the given circumstances is causing growing discontent domestically and internationally, including among those who are regarded as Belarus’ strategic partners.

Victory Day military parade is becoming counterproductive and only a few days are left to make a final decision. That said, the coronavirus outbreak has demonstrated that the Belarusian authorities lack the ability to respond promptly to emerging challenges. Given the political implications of holding a military parade, the only person who can decide to alter the format of Victory Day celebrations is President Lukashenka himself. Hence, the decision-making time is further reducing due to the domestic policy nuances within the Belarusian regime.