Bear drop action causes troubles in Belarus
On 4 July Swedish pilots penetrated Belarusian air defence and dropped around 800 toys on Minsk. Anton Surapin (right), a 20-year-old journalist who was the first to publish photos of "teddy bear drop" on his web-site, was detained by the KGB on suspicion of involvement in the organisation of the actions.
Saturday, 21 July 2012, by Belarusian HRH based on svaboda.org, nn.by, nash-dom.info
Early on 4 July, the next day after the Belarusian Independence Day parade, Swedish pilots penetrated Belarusian airspace and dropped around 800 teddy bears on Minsk and Ivyanets. Notes of support for freedom of speech were attached to every toy. The aim of the action was to support the democratic processes in Belarus.
The plane registered in Sweden allegedly flew from neighbouring Lithuania and without authorisation entered the airspace of Belarus. The Belarusian Ministry of Defence has denied the fact of unauthorised flight of Swedish activists on light airplane over the territory of Belarus on 4 July.
On 13 July Anton Surapin, a 20-year-old student of the Institute of Journalism of Belarusian State University, who was the first to post pictures of teddy bears parachuted on 4 July on his website "Belarusian News Photos", was detained. Surapin claims that he received the pictures of teddy bears him via e-mail from an unknown person.
The young journalist spent three days in custody, and, according to the law, his involvement in parachuting teddy bears by the Swedes was to be determined, or he was to be released. But on 16 July, the day when the period of his detention should have ended, Anton was not released.
Pilots: "We had no contact with Anton"
Organisers of the "teddy bear drop", the representatives of the Studio Total PR company, claimed that the Belarusian photographer Anton Surapin detained by the KGB was not involved in their action.
Tomas Mazetti, who along with his colleague Hannah Lina Frey flew the aircraft during the action, said that Anton did not take any part in the action: "We have already talked about it before the action - we have had no contacts with any of the representatives of Belarus. Of course, we did not have any contacts with Anton". According to Mazetti, the organisers will make an official statement on the matter during the next two or three days. "It will be addressed to the Belarusian authorities as well. Moreover, we are ready to answer all the questions of Belarusian investigators if they come to Sweden", said Mazetti.
He claimed to be unaware of who could send pictures of the teddy-bear drop to Anton Surapin. The organisers were not the ones who did it, said Mazetti. "Just think about it: we dropped a few hundred bears, and I personally saw that many people had them photographed. Any of these people could have sent the pictures to Anton", the representative of the Studio Total said.
Anton's mother Alena Surapina also stated that her son had nothing to do with the organisation of the action:
"The KGB now examines his computer equipment, which was confiscated. They said that if confirmed that these pictures were sent to him, and he did not upload them himself, he would be released. I am convinced that this will happen, because he himself had told me about it. I believe that the examination will prove him innocent of the airplane affair".
According to Alena Surapina, her son was just doing his job: "I think Anton is just a scapegoat. We searched the Internet, and there was so much information [about the bear drop]. There are already videos and everything else. So why did they take him? Because he was the first one [to publish the photos]? But it's his job, he is a journalist".
This story has generated a lot of publicity and raised doubts about the Belarusian air defence competence. At the moment, Lukashenka's Commission inspects all units of the Air Force and air defence forces.
The official Minsk initially denied the fact of violation of Belarusian airspace by a foreign aircraft. After that, the organisers published a video of their flight over Belarus on the Internet, and then made statements that during preparation to the action they had no contact with any Belarusians.
Now, Anton Surapin is kept in the KGB detention facility. Prior to 23 July, he should be indicted. He is a suspect under Article 371, part 3 of the Belarusian Criminal Code (premeditated illegal crossing the state border of Belarus organized by a group of individuals), which stipulates a penalty of imprisonment from three to seven years, with or without confiscation of property.
Belarusian HRH based on svaboda.org, nn.by, nash-dom.info