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Belarus ends diplomatic 'Ice Age' with Sweden six years after teddy bear spat

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Belarus ends diplomatic 'Ice Age' with Sweden six years after teddy bear spat
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Photo: AP Photo/Sergei Grits
08:04 CEST+02:00
Six years after a bitter diplomatic row broke out over a pro-democracy stunt involving teddy bears, Belarus has appointed a new ambassador to Sweden.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko appointed foreign ministry spokesman Dmitry Mironchik as the new ambassador to Sweden, his official website said.

The move ended hostile relations dating back to July 2012 when a group of Swedish activists parachuted teddy bears carrying pro-democracy messages into the ex-Soviet country.

Mironchik told Belarusian state television that “now we can say the Ice Age in relations between Belarus and Sweden has officially ended”.

Lukashenko was furious after activists managed to fly a small plane into Belarusian air space from Lithuania and drop some 800 toys, attached to little parachutes and holding signs calling for freedom of speech and human rights.

The Belarusian strongman, who has been in power since 1994, reacted by expelling Swedish diplomats and recalling Belarusian diplomats, although Belarus and Sweden never severed diplomatic ties.

Lukashenko also fired the foreign minister, the country’s top border control official and the air force commander. A border guard was jailed for failing to report the plane.

The European Union in 2016 lifted sanctions against Belarus for an improved human rights record, including the release of political prisoners.

Sweden in 2015 appointed an ambassador to Belarus.

The Belarusian move comes as the Swedish government on Monday presented a pamphlet on what households should do to prepare for possible war amid soaring tensions with Russia.

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