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Belarusian journalist released on bail

AFP/The Local · 20 Aug 2012, 06:15

Published: 20 Aug 2012 06:15 GMT+02:00

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The two men, journalist Anton Suryapin and estate agent Sergei Basharimov, each risk up to seven years in jail after being listed as suspects in aiding and abetting the flight.

They have been freed on bail after signing undertakings not to leave the country, which is under a raft of sanctions imposed by the European Union over the plight of its political prisoners.

In the stunt last month, the three activists from a Swedish PR agency illegally flew a plane into Belarusian airspace and dropped hundreds of teddy bears attached to little parachutes carrying signs calling for freedom of speech and human rights.

Basharimov rented out an apartment to the Swedes, while Suryapin published photographs of the teddy bears on his website.

"I don't consider myself guilty or involved in this case. The fact that I managed to publish these unique shots I consider is my success as a journalist," Suryapin told AFP at his home in the town of Slutsk south of Minsk.

"I did not know those Swedes. The fact that we were held in a KGB prison only in order to make the Swedes come is absurd, I think," he said.

Suryapin, 20, was detained on July 13 after the security services searched his home and confiscated his computer. He was later placed under arrest as a suspect.

Belarus's security service, still known as the KGB, has summoned the three activists. They declined, inviting Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko to visit them in Sweden instead.

The stunt led Lukashenko to fire his top border control official and air force commander and sparked a diplomatic row between Minsk and Stockholm.

Story continues below…

On August 3rd, Minsk expelled the Swedish ambassador to Belarus alleging that he was trying to "destroy" ties, a move Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt conceded could be linked to the teddy bear incident.

Sweden retaliated, refusing to accept the proposed replacement of an outgoing ambassador and withdrawing residency permits for two Belarusian diplomats, who were asked to leave the Scandinavian country.

On August 8th, Minsk announced it was expelling all Swedish diplomats, giving Sweden until August 30th to remove them and close its Stockholm mission.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

07:43 August 21, 2012 by NetFox
I have already said that the main reason the powers Eriksson that he speaks in the Belarusian language and studied the history of Belarus. Lukasz blurted it without thinking in a speech on August 9.
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