The regime of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka sunk to new bizarre lows in July after a blogger was arrested for posting online pictures of teddy bears
being dropped from a plane by Swedish rights activists who supported the country’s opposition.
In support, Liberal Youth, the youth wing of Britain's Liberal Democrats, has launched a campaign called Bears For Belarus, where users upload photos of themselves holding teddy bears.
Check out the photos here
The teddy bears were dropped (with parachutes) from a Swedish plane above Belarus's capital on July 4. The bears were carrying texts in support of the country’s dissidents.
Liberal Youth says that its website has received more than 18,000 hits in two weeks, "with many coming from inside Belarus itself." The campaign has also received the support of several British MPs.
“I’m very pleased with the way that the campaign has taken off. The fight to depose Europe’s last dictator will continue, but Liberal Youth has raised awareness of the situation in Belarus -- and this can only be good news," said Tom Wood, the chairman of Liberal Youth.
The campaign has also received the support of the youth wing of the Russian opposition party Yabloko.
In addition to arresting blogger Anton Surapin and businessman Syarhey Basharymau for uploading the photos -- both face up to seven years in prison -- the authorities in Minsk have also fined two journalists, Iryna Kozlik and Yulia Darashkevich, for posing and taking pictures of themselves with teddy bears in solidarity with the arrested men.
The incident has also sparked a diplomatic standoff, with Belarus in early August expelling the Swedish ambassador and announcing it was withdrawing all staff at the Belarusian Embassy in Stockholm. Senior Belarusian officials from the State Border Guard Committee have also lost their jobs.