09 August 2012

Belarus Teddy Bear Prank rumles on

Regular readers will realise that I do not hold Belarusian leader Alexander Lubyankashenko in a high regard.

Unsurprisingly he was less than amused by a recent stunt by a Swedish advertising agency (on behalf of a human rights organisation) which flew a light aircraft to Belarus where it dropped teddy bears with a human rights message attached to them over the town of Ivanyets.

Two Belarusian men, Anton Suryapin and Sergei Basharimov, had already bee detained on suspicion of complicity in "illegal intrusion". Suryapin , who runs the Belarusian News Photos website, appears to have been arrested simply for uploading  photos of the teddy bears on to the site.

Last week  the Chairman of the State Border Committee, Maj Gen Igor Rachkovsky, and Air Defence Commander Maj Gen Dmitry Pakhmelkin had been dismissed for failing in their duties.

Yesterday the BBC reported that Belarus expelled Sweden's ambassador on 3 August, and withdrew its own envoy to Stockholm. Sweden's ambassador had apparently angered Minsk by holding meetings with the Belarusian opposition.

Sweden then said it would not allow a new Belarusian ambassador to take up his post, and asked a further two Belarusian diplomats to leave.

After Belarus announced further action on Wednesday, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said in a Twitter comment that Mr Lukashenko's "fear of human rights [is] reaching new heights".

What to say? Whether or not you consider the stunt silly the Belarusian response has been ridiculous

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