Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he is moving ahead with the military parade commemorating the end of World War Two in Europe on May 9, according to a readout posted on his presidential website Sunday.

“I must say that we cannot cancel the parade, we simply cannot, I thought about it for a long time,” Lukashenko said in government meeting, adding that he is worried “people would say we got scared.”
“We should remember that some people (who fought) might have died of viruses or other diseases, but they didn’t always feel it, they died for us, no matter how pompous it may sound,” the president added.

Lukashenko told his cabinet not to “drag anyone” to the parade, which he said will be organized “properly,” but did not elaborate.

“If people don’t want (to go), they are afraid, they are taking care of their health — we will understand it,” the Belarusian president said. “Today there are enough people who want this event to be held, thousands and thousands of people.”

Russia and other former Soviet countries have cancelled Victory Day events due to health risk concerns.

The background: Belarus, a country of about 9.5 million people, has recorded 17,489 cases of coronavirus and more than 100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The country has not canceled public events or ordered people into self-isolation, and Lukashenko publicly said he thinks the dangers of coronavirus are overblown.