Stefan Eriksson, the former Swedish ambassador to Belarus, said on Tuesday that a diplomatic row that led to the closure of the Swedish embassy in Minsk and the Belarusian embassy in Stockholm was not the direct result of July`s drop of teddy bears.
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-democracy messages on the small city of Ivyanets and Minsk’s outskirts before flying back to Lithuania unhindered.
"It did not improve the image of Sweden [in the eyes of the Belarusian authorities], of course, but the boil of the Belarusian authorities` discontent had been coming to a head for a long time and finally burst," Radio Sweden quoted him as saying.
"The positive side of what happened is that attention was attracted to Belarus," he said.
Minsk expelled Mr. Eriksson shortly after the incident, although Alyaksandr Lukashenka later denied a link between the expulsion of the ambassador and the toy drop. The Belarusian foreign ministry announced on August 3 that the Belarusian authorities had denied an accreditation extension to Mr. Eriksson.
"He has worked in Belarus for about seven years, which is a long period," said the ministry`s spokesman, Andrey Savinykh. "However, all his activities were aimed at destroying Belarusian-Swedish relations, not at strengthening them."
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt dismissed all accusations against the Swedish diplomat and warned that the incoming Belarusian ambassador was not welcome in Stockholm, and that the residence permits of two of its representatives would be withdrawn.
On August 8, the Belarusian foreign ministry announced that Belarus had recalled all its embassy staff from Stockholm and told Sweden to withdraw all its diplomats from Minsk before August 30.