News / Europe

Belarus Expels Swedish Officials Over Bear Drop

Teddy bear hangs on parachute during protest training for Belarusian airspace intrusion by Swedish human rights activist, Stockholm, July 2012.
Teddy bear hangs on parachute during protest training for Belarusian airspace intrusion by Swedish human rights activist, Stockholm, July 2012.
VOA News
Belarus is recalling its ambassador to Sweden and its entire embassy staff in the latest round of tense moves, following a "teddy bear drop" on Belarusian soil meant to call attention to the country's human-rights record.
 
Wednesday's announcement followed moves last week by both Belarus and Sweden to remove several diplomats from each other's embassies. Officials have not directly linked the dismissals to the teddy bear protest by Swedish activists.
 
Teddy Bear Invasion
 
The bear controversy began July 4 when two Swedish activists in a small plane dropped hundreds of teddy bears over the cities of Ivenets and Minsk. The toys bore messages urging Belarus to show greater respect for human rights. Still photos and video taken by the activists during their stunt were later published on the Internet.
 
Tomas Mazetti and Hannah Frey with a human-rights message bearing teddy similar to ones they dropped in Belarusian airspace, Germany, Aug. 1, 2012.Tomas Mazetti and Hannah Frey with a human-rights message bearing teddy similar to ones they dropped in Belarusian airspace, Germany, Aug. 1, 2012.
x
Tomas Mazetti and Hannah Frey with a human-rights message bearing teddy similar to ones they dropped in Belarusian airspace, Germany, Aug. 1, 2012.
Tomas Mazetti and Hannah Frey with a human-rights message bearing teddy similar to ones they dropped in Belarusian airspace, Germany, Aug. 1, 2012.
The action was seen as a great embarrassment to the Belarusian government, which did not confirm the event until three weeks later, when it noted the Swedes had crossed Lithuania into heavily guarded Belarusian airspace without permission.
 
A third Swedish activist, who watched from the ground, told The New York Times that they expected the plane would be forced down, but instead it crossed out of the country safely after making the drops.
 
Hardline President Alexander Lukashenko last week fired two of his top defense officials after border guards failed to intercept the plane.
 
Investigation
 
On Tuesday, a statement from Belarusian security officials said two Belarussian citizens, Sergei Basharimov and Anton Suryapin, have been arrested and formally charged with involvement in the teddy bear incident. While Minsk is tight-lipped on the arrests, Basharimov is thought to have rented an apartment to the Swedish activists. Suryapin is a photojournalist.
 
The Belarusian police also said the activists, who work for a Swedish advertising firm, are being summoned for questioning on charges of trespassing.
 
Ties between Belarus and Western Europe have grown increasingly strained over Belarus's human-rights record. The European Union and the United States increased sanctions on the Belarusian government after its violent crackdown on protesters after Lukashenko won a fourth term in December 2010 elections.
 
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: mark from: seattle
August 10, 2012 9:35 PM
they could not speak russian?

by: luchester from: ecuador
August 09, 2012 12:45 PM
Why, pray tell, is the note in ENGLISH????

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More