On July 4, a Swedish pro-democracy group violated Belarus airspace by flying an airplane from neighboring Lithuania. The plane dropped hundreds of teddy bears in black parachutes in the areas neighboring Minsk.
The bears carried messages proclaiming “Belarus Freedom” and “We support the Belarus struggle for free speech.”
Belarus, under the thumb of a dictatorship, at first denied that teddy bears invaded its country. However, a Belarus journalist who took photos of the bears and posted them was arrested. Being arrested for taking photos of teddy bears is probably a new one in the annals of human rights violations. Ultimately, Belarus admitted that teddy bears bearing a message did fall from the sky.
“How do you account for a provocation by a single-engine airplane that didn’t just cross the border, but invaded Belarus’ territory scot-free?” said an angry President Alexander Lukashenko about his country’s air defenses.
The arrests are not stopping at the journalist either. Lukashenko said that the air defense authorities did nothing to stop the plane despite being aware of it. Those who allowed the plane to fly unaccosted are being threatened with jail time.
While the rest of Europe has kicked out the dictators, Belarus remains the exception. Belarus has been stuck in this repression almost from the time it gained its freedom from the Soviet Union.