A military court in Belarus has sentenced one of its border guards to two years in prison for failing to protect the country from an invasion by foreign teddy bears last July.
No guys, it’s not April yet.
The invading teddies parachuted into the capital city of Minsk and other outlying areas, carrying placards protesting Belarusian human rights abuses.
While initially a publicity campaign carried out by a Swedish advertisement agency seeking to show solidarity for pro-democracy groups, the stunt has morphed into an all-out diplomatic war between Sweden and Belarus. In response to the plane drop, Belarus withdrew its ambassador from Sweden, and president Alexander Lukashenko issued a state memo declaring that any further “teddy-planes” would be shot down.
And in the midst of all of this, the border guard who failed to report the plane in a timely manner has become a scapegoat.
Not So Cuddly
You may ask yourself, what kind of nation would so blatantly show hate for teddy bears? Unfortunately for the teddies, Belarus is a prime suspect. For the last few years, Belarus has been ranked by Amnesty International as one of the most dangerous nations with respect to human rights. As the CIA World Factbook notes, Belarus “while a republic in name is in fact an authoritarian dictatorship” ruthlessly ruled by Alexander Lukashenko.
In recent years, the regime’s human rights violations have steadily increased, from the unwarranted arrest of more than 600 political activists and presidential candidates at a rally to strict sanctions against Jewish and LBGT communities. The US State Department classifies Belarus as a rogue nation, detailing the government as “a brutal, authoritarian dictatorship that blatantly ignores human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Surprisingly, Belarus is often left off the list as one of the most restrictive nations in the world. However, these teddy bears may have just saved the day—bringing the plight of Belarusians back into the spotlight.