Belarus: Interior minister dons Stalinist uniform

Ihar Shunievich salutes alongside other officials at the parade in Minsk Image copyright TUT.by/Vital Dzyambowski
Image caption Ihar Shunievich (far left) has dismissed criticism over his choice of attire

The interior minister of Belarus has raised eyebrows by turning up at a World War Two commemorative parade in the distinctive tunic of Stalin's secret police.

President Alexander Lukashenko and other senior officials wore modern military dress at the event in Minsk on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. But Ihar Shunievich stood out among them in the unmistakable blue uniform, low-peaked cap and high black boots of the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs - the dreaded NKVD, the TUT.by news portal reports.

Many veterans and soldiers in former Soviet states chose to wear vintage military uniforms for parades this month, but the role of the NKVD was far more controversial. Many of its officers did fight the Nazis, but others ran slave labour camps, deported and massacred civilians, and - notoriously - shot more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war at Katyn in 1940.

His uniform was that of an NKVD department more concerned with ordinary police work, but most social media users haven't drawn that distinction. "The NKVD were war heroes?! Really?!" was one of many such comments on a TUT.by discussion forum. Despite the furore, Mr Shunievich remains unrepentant. He told reporters that he wore the tunic in tribute to his predecessors who "accomplished great feats and died in this uniform", and declined to comment any further.

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