Today the former Soviet republic of Belarus is marking the 60th anniversary of liberation from Nazi occupation in the Second World War.
During WWII, 209 of Belarus' 170 cities and towns were destroyed and some 9,200 villages were razed to the ground. The material damage inflicted by the war came to 75 billion rubles, or half of the republic's wealth.
No accurate statistics are available on the number of casualties, however. The estimated number of Belarussian lives taken by WWII ranges from 2.2 million to 3 million (with the pre-war population put at 9.2 million).
Commemorative events, which began this morning with a memorial service at a cathedral in the capital of Minsk. Later in the day, a military parade will take place, to involve over 4,000 serviceme. It will feature military hardware of the WWII period, Defense Ministry officials have announced. Modern-day weaponry and equipment will be showed off as well. Some 350 varieties of hardware will be highlighted in the parade overall, including T72B tanks, Osa and Tunguska antiaircraft guns, 152-millimeter self-propelled howitzers Akatsia and Geotsint, multiple launch rocket systems Smerch, tactical missiles Tochka and S300, and over 40 various aircraft (jet planes and helicopters).
Outdoor concerts, trade fairs and other events will be staged on Minsk's streets today to celebrate the occasion. In the evening, galas will be held at the city's main concert venues. The celebrations will culminate at 11 p.m. in a fireworks display all across Belarus, organizers say. They promise that today's celebrations will be "eventful and lavish."