Updated at 11:25,18-04-2018

Studio Total: Don't deal with Lukashenka


Swedish pilots call on Europe to suspend all contacts with the Belarusian president.

Per Cromwell, the head of Studio Total PR firm that organised the "teddy bear airdrop" over Belarus on July 4 last year, has been interviewed by charter97.org. He commented on the decision of the Swedish Prosecution Authority to launch an investigation into the incident of crossing the Lithuanian-Belarusian border by a light plane.

"The Lithuanian authorities clearly want this matter out of their hands. Our feeling is that this is complex and that they don't know how to handle it," he said.

Per Cromwell notes he is not afraid of the prosecution.

"The offence is minor, if any. We'll just have to wait and see," the Studio Total founder said.

He noted the Swedish Prosecution Authority perhaps took the decision only to calm the Belarusian authorities and return its ambassador to Minsk.

"It's possible. Sooner or later there will be Swedish representation in Belarus. We all hope that this will be in a post-Lukashenka world and soon," Per Cromwell said.

The Studio Total founder spoke about his attitude towards negotiations with the European Union to lift travel restrictions from Belarusian foreign minister Uladzimir Makei in exchange for the return of the Swedish ambassador to Minsk.

"Demanding the release of prisoners is good, they shouldn't have been put in jail in the first place. But dealing with the man who put them there gives him legitimacy. We think everyone should be extremely careful what kind of deals you make with a president.

Remembering that if no one dealt with him, he would be gone in no time,"
Per Cromwell said.

A light plane piloted by Studio Total members illegally crossed the Belarusian border on the morning of July 4. More than 800 teddy bears with pro-democracy labels were dropped over Ivyanets and Minsk during a 1.5-hour flight. A criminal case was opened, though border guards and army officials denied the border violation.

On July 13, 20-year old photographer Anton Surapin, who was the first to post photos of teddy bears on his website Belarusian News Photos, was detained. Real estate agent Syarhei Basharymau, who deals with short-term rentals, was detained on suspicion that the Swedish pilots might have rented or planned to rent a flat he offered.

On July 31, Lukashenka relieved head of the State Border Committee Ihar Rachkouski Commander of Air and Air Defence Forces General Major Dzmitry Pakhmelkin of their duties for "improper discharge of official duties in ensuring the national security of the Republic of Belarus".

On August 1, the Belarusian authorities refused to prolong accreditation for Swedish Ambassador Stefan Eriksson that provoked a diplomatic row between Belarus and Sweden. Surapin and Basharymau were released from the KGB jail on their own recognizance on August 17.

In February 2013, a border guard, who didn't report about crossing the border by the Swedish plane on July 4, 2012, was sentenced to 2 years in a medium security penal colony.

It shoud be reminded that the Swedish pilots received Charter'97 National Human Rights Award 2012.