Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear

I think it’s funny. Peaceful Swedish citizens get themselves a small jet and sneak off from Lithuania over the Belarusian border to scatter teddy bears in support of the freedom of speech. In Belarus, which is so obsessed with its security.

I don’t find it funny when there is a show of toys with slogans for more human rights and freedoms and the human organisers are tried and put behind bars. The toys luckily, not.

It is not very amusing to see Soviet style parades during the Victory Day and Independence Day celebrations, showing off military aircraft and defence equipment, all those tanks and other examples of the munitions wardrobe of Belarus.

Twenty five years ago, in 1987, as the Soviet Union was crumbling and tumbling, German Mathias Rust illegally landed next to Red Square in Moscow, in the heart of the Soviet empire.

Of course he was tracked, but nobody was decisive enough to give an order to shoot him down. As a result there was a window of opportunity for Gorbachev; he fired key defence officials who opposed his perestroika ideas.

Belarusian history also knows a very different story: In September 1995 a balloon participating in an announced international race was shot down; two Americans were killed. A big international scandal followed.

Who knows what happened now, when Belarusian authorities have tense relations with both Europe and Russia? If there was a decision not to shoot the low-flying plane. If the plane went unnoticed and managed to violate the Nato-Belarus border. Or if it was disassembled and brought to Belarus across the Russian border, where there are no border controls.

The facts are: there are videos showing hundreds of teddy bears with signs “We support the Belarusian struggle for free speech” flying towards places in Belarus that can be identified; there are witnesses who saw them, and those who picked them up.

The State Border Committee of Belarus denied any invasion of Belarus’ airspace, claiming that the video is a fake; the Lithuanian side confirmed the trespassing of the border but refused to elaborate if it was linked to the teddy bear flight.

Notoriously, Belarusian air defence system is meant to protect Russia as well. And now Belarus is planning to help Venezuela build up an air shield.

But apart from the question of national security. With human protests being silenced, the toys are still able to cross the border and ask for more freedom. But this time most of the teddy bears from Sweden ended up in police stations for further investigation. Isn’t it ironic?


PS  It was on 10 July 1994 that Lukashenka came to power.  18 years ago today.

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