A Belarusian border guard reportedly will spend two years behind bars for failing to tell his superiors about a Swedish plane that entered the country in July to make an air drop -- of teddy bears.
Hundreds of plush bears with parachutes and protest slogans such as “Free Speech Now” descended on the authoritarian former Soviet state July 4, dropped from a small plane piloted by members of a Swedish ad agency.
The teddy bear stunt was designed to draw media attention to human rights abuses in Belarus, the Studio Total ad agency wrote. Human rights groups deem Belarus one of the most repressive countries in Europe, so intolerant of dissent that some activists have taken to staging protests with toys -- part of what inspired the Swedes to drop the stuffed bears.
The tumbling toys were no laughing matter to President Alexander Lukashenko, who was infuriated that the country's heavily guarded airspace had been overrun “with impunity.” The stunt has already prompted the sacking of two generals and may have triggered the ouster of Swedish diplomats a month later.
The latest fallout was the sentencing of the guard for failing to report the plane had crossed into Belarusian airspace, according to media reports. The Belarusian Supreme Court told news agencies about the sentence Monday.