In another development, the masterminds behind a July 4 prank in which hundreds of teddy wearing free-speech slogans were dropped over the countryside outside the capital city of Minsk, have turned the tables on Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.
Lukashenko had summoned the founders of the Swedish PR firm Studio Total to Belarus for questioning about the incident. The Swedes declined, instead inviting Lukashenko to discuss the matter at their home in southern Sweden, according to an article in The Local
And while Belarus has called on neighboring Lithuania to investigate how the plane involved in the stunt was able to land and take off from an airport near the Belarus border. Lithuania, in turn, has warned Belarus that it is risking even further sanctions from the European Union because of its high-handed approach to the incident, according to The Local
Anton Suryapin and Sergei Basharimov are facing up to seven years in prison if they are convicted of aiding and abetting the Swedes, according to an article in The Local
. Suryapin posted photos he had taken of the teddy bears on his website, and Basharimov had rented an apartment to a group of Swedes who were in Minsk to witness the incident.
Otherwise, organizers of the teddy bear drop have said the two men had no part in the stunt. Belarus authorities sent a summons to the organizers for questioning. Last week they said they would go if they could have a guarantee that they would not be indicted.
When that was not forthcoming, the Swedes invited Lukashenko to come to Sweden instead.
Sweden and Belarus have broken off diplomatic ties, and last week, a U.S. State Department spokesman affirmed their support for Sweden's efforts on behalf of human rights in the former Soviet republic.