Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

KGB brings charges against Surapin and Basharymaw

Anton Surapin and Syarhey Basharymaw are formally charged by the Committee for State Security over a drop of teddy bears from a Swedish plane in July. Swedish organizers are suggested to travel to Minsk for questioning in the capacity of suspects, BelaPAN learnt

In the early morning July 4 Swedish light aircraft dropped over Ivyanets and Minsk hundreds of teddy bears with slogans in support of democracy. Responsibility for the action was taken by representatives of the Swedish PR firm Studio Total. Their aim was to support freedom of speech in Belarus.

In its turn, the Belarusian Defense Ministry stated there were no violations of the country's airspace, and it called falsification the videos posted on the Internet proving the opposite.

The story of teddy bear drop was publicly distributed and gave reason to doubt the military readiness of air defense systems of Belarus. President's Commission was established, it held an inspection of all formations and units of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces of Belarus.

The KGB confirmed that young photographer Anton Surapin and Syarhey Basharymaw had been charged with complicity in a crime and assistance to illegal entry.

The KGB warned that a final decision regarding its case against the Belarusians would depend on the interrogations of the Swedes.

On July 13, the KGB arrested Surapin. The news site Belarusian News Photos, founded by Surapin, a 20-year-old fourth-year student at Belarusian State University’s Journalism Institute, ran images of the teddy bears with miniature placards lying on the grass hours after the drop. In his comments, Surapin said that he had received them from an anonymous author living outside Minsk.

The other arrested person is Basharymaw, the man who is believed to have leased out an apartment to representatives of Studio Total who arrived in Belarus to take pictures of the drop and provide help to the pilots in case of emergency.

Studio Total representatives said in July that they had not had any contact with Belarusian citizens prior to the stunt and the arrested people were innocent.

In an open letter to Alyaksandr Lukashenka in July, Studio Total co-founder Per Cromwell expressed readiness to travel to Belarus to meet with investigators.

"But If you absolutely must jail and abuse people – why not invite us?" Cromwell said in the letter. "After all, we were the ones who flew the plane, not some poor guy who happened to sell us chocolate. We promise you to come and answer all your questions and tell you everything about the operation. How we flew, how we cheated your air-defense systems and so on. All you need to do is to promise not to torture some innocent passer-by, in your frustration."