Surapin, Basharymaw released on recognizance
Photographer Anton Surapin and another young man, Syarhey Basharymaw, who were arrested by the KGB following the July 4 teddy bear drop were released on Friday evening on their own recognizance.
In the July 4 incident, two representatives of Sweden’s advertising agency Studio Total illegally flew a small plane from Lithuania to Belarus and dropped hundreds of parachute-wearing teddy bears that carried pro-human rights messages on the small city of Ivyanets and Minsk’s outskirts before flying back to Lithuania unhindered.
Announcing their stunt, Studio Total released videos made during the flight.
The Belarusian defense ministry initially denied that any aircraft had invaded the country’s airspace on that day, described the videos as fake and said that the Swedish firm had invented the story.
Mr. Surapin, a 20-year-old fourth-year student at Belarusian State University`s Journalism Institute, was arrested after he posted pictures of the teddy bears on his website titled Belarusian News Photos. Mr. Surapin said in his comment that he had received them from an anonymous author living outside Minsk.
Mr. Basharymaw, a real estate agent, 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 assistance 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 flight, and that the arrested people were innocent.
However, Messrs. Surapin and Basharymaw were formally charged with complicity in the "illegal crossing" into Belarusian airspace.
The KGB said that it wanted Studio Total co-founder Tomas Mazetti, who piloted the plane, and two colleagues of his, Hannah Frey and Per Cromwell, to participate in its "investigative actions" so that it would be able to clarify the role of each person and help it decide how to deal with the two Belarusian men accused of aiding the Swedes.
"This is pure blackmail," Mr. Mazetti commented.
The KGB stresses in a statement issued on Friday evening that Messrs. Surapin and Basharymaw continue to be accused persons in the case, "as necessary investigative actions, including face-to-face confrontations, have not been conducted because of the refusal of the Swedish citizens to present themselves at the investigative department."
"Final procedural decisions regarding the citizens of Belarus involved in the criminal case will be made only after the circumstances of the crime under investigation are fully clarified," the statement says.