Student detained in 'teddy bear mystery'

2012-07-17 21:07

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Minsk - Authorities in Belarus have arrested a student as a suspected accomplice in violating the country's borders after he published photos of a mysterious mass landing of teddy bears brandishing protest slogans.

Anton Suryapin, a journalism student in Minsk, was detained on 13 July after the security services - still known as the KGB - searched his home and confiscated his computer, said Belarussian Journalism Association head Andrei Bastunets.

The 20-year-old was placed under arrest as part of a probe into illegal border crossing, and named as an accomplice "based on his publishing of exclusive photos of the 'Swedish teddy-bears'," Bastunets said.

Authorities in the isolated country have denied reports in Swedish media claiming in early July that a small plane crossed the border from Lithuania into Belarus where it air-dropped hundreds of teddy bears on little parachutes holding signs demanding human rights and political freedoms.

Little evidence of the drop surfaced besides one viral video showing a plane pass over what seems to be a provincial town releasing tiny objects and a photo of a bear holding a tiny placard.

Suryapin said on his website Bnp.by that he has been sent photos of the bears made by a local resident, who confirmed the drop.

He has not been officially charged with border violation, an offence which carries up to seven years in jail, but can be held under arrest for 10 days, said Bastunets, who visited the man in the Minsk jail kept by the KGB.

The alleged bear drop sparked huge interest in Belarus, however the country's airforce commander denied that there has been an illicit penetration of the border, calling the news report a "100% provocation against Belarus".

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