Belarus Bombed With Bears
MINSK, Belarus (AP) – It’s probably the first time in history that teddy bears have defeated generals.
Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has sacked two of the nation’s top defense officials after two Swedish advertising agency employees piloted a light plane into the country’s heavily guarded airspace, dropping 879 teddy bears decked out in parachutes and slogans supporting human rights.
Officials in the ex-Soviet state denied the July 4 incident until Lukashenko called a meeting last week to scold authorities for allowing such a “provocation.”
The Belarusian ruler nicknamed “Europe’s last dictator” on Tuesday fired the nation’s air defense chief and the head of the Border Guards service and reprimanded several other top security officials.
Thomas Mazetti and Hannah Frey, the two Swedes behind the stunt, said they wanted to show support for Belarusian human rights activists and embarrass the country’s military, a pillar of Lukashenko’s power.
“Hopefully, we’ve made people more aware in the world and that there will be more people supporting Belarusian people,” Frey said.
The Swedes’ yearlong preparations involved learning how to pilot the three-seater Jodel aircraft and purchasing the plane. They financed the $184,500 cost with work in an advertising agency.
Authorities in Belarus have also arrested a journalism student who posted teddy bear photos on his personal website and a real estate agent who offered an apartment to the Swedes. They were accused of assisting border violators and face up to seven years in prison.