Thu August 2, 2012
Belarus Invaded By Teddy Bears! Two Generals Sacked
We're not making this up: three idealistic Swedes who work for an advertising agency decided to announce their support for human rights activists in Belarus by flying a small plane into the country, and pitching hundreds of teddy bears overboard. They succeeded in embarrassing senior military leaders.
About a month ago, Hannah Frey and Tomas Mazetti donned little bear masks and steered their light plane over the border from Lithuania. When they got close to the capital, they dropped 800 plush toys to the ground, according to the New York Times. A third organizer tracked them from the ground.
Outfitted with parachutes, the teddy bears rained down just outside Minsk, wearing slogans saying "We support the Belarus struggle for free speech" and "Belarus Freedom", says Time.
The Swedish activists, who flew around in Belarussian airspace for nearly an hour and a half, were never accosted, forced down, or attacked by the Belarussian military.
Repressive Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko was not amused.
First Belarus said the stunt never happened. Then, after the Swedes posted a short video about their flight, Russia's RIA Novosti said Lukashenko changed course: "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?"
Apparently they couldn't, so he fired some of them. The general leading the border service and the general leading the air force were dismissed.
The activists seem to be the most surprised, according to the Times, because they expected to be forced down by jets. They report at one point, air traffic controllers tried to contact them, but they spoke Russian and the activists didn't, so nothing was communicated.
Belarussian authorities arrested a journalism student who posted photos of the bears online. The Swedish activists wrote an open letter to Lukashenko, saying they were not assisted by any Belarussian and calling for the student's immediate release.