Entries in Belarus (5)


Belarus Security Officials Fired over Teddy Bear Aerial Assault

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(MINSK, Belarus) -- If pigs could fly, why not teddys?

In Belarus, heads rolled after hundreds of teddy bears floated down to earth attached to tiny parachutes. All part of a stunt by a Swedish advertising firm, the bears were all carrying messages calling for freedom of speech.

But Belarus' President Aleksandr Lukashenko was not amused and this week announced that his air force and border security chiefs would both be fired for allowing the air drop. The glaring security breach was one the president could not ignore as photos and videos of the stunt had been uploaded and posted all around the Internet.  Lukashenko called security officials out at a meeting last week, The New York Time reports.

"How do you explain the provocation with the airplane that not only crossed our borders, but entered the territory of Belarus unpunished?" he grilled the officials, according to the Times. "Was this the stupidity of specific actors or systemic mistakes in the defense of the airspace?"

President Lukashenko responded Thursday to those who question his decision to remove the two generals from their post.

"There should not be much fuss about it," he told the Belarusian Telegraph Agency. "Quite the opposite, the punishment was too lenient. In times of the Soviet Union, these people would be jailed."

Meanwhile, a young journalism student has been arrested and is being held in police custody. Anton Suryapin, who posted photos of the teddy bears on the Internet is accused of aiding and abetting the stunt, and could face up to seven years in jail.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Europe’s Last Dictator Barred from London Olympics

NIKOLAI PETROV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Who is blocking Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko from attending the London Olympics? That’s what the head of Russia’s Olympic Committee wants to know after the man dubbed Europe’s Last Dictator did not receive permission to travel there for the games.

“The organizing committee in London did not give accreditation to National Olympic Committee President Alexander Lukashenko. Isn’t sports outside politics?” Alexander Zhukov wrote on his Twitter account, according to Russian news reports.

RIA Novosti reports that the International Olympic Committee and London organizers both denied barring Lukashenko from attending.

However, now the British Embassy in Minsk, Belarus’ capital, has confirmed that Lukashenko was denied permission to enter the country because he is one of several Belarusian officials banned from entering the European Union, part of the sanctions against them for human rights abuses.

“President Alexander Lukashenko is on the list of persons prohibited from entering the EU. This prohibition will continue to operate during the Olympic Games,” a spokesman for the embassy told Russia’s Interfax news agency, adding that the decision will not change.

So far Belarusian officials have offered no comment.

The sanctions on Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials were imposed after authorities cracked down on a protest movement last year.

Lukashenko reportedly dispatched his country’s Olympic team to London with a goal to win 25 medals, including 5 golds.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Social Media Sites Blocked in Belarus on Independence Day

John Foxx/Stockbyte(MINSK, Belarus) -- Demonstrators in Belarus who were planning to use the internet to organize Independence Day protests came upon an obstacle Sunday, as the country reportedly blocked access to certain social networking websites.

Activists planned on staging an anti-government protest on Sunday in the form of clapping when President Alexander Lukashenko began delivering his Independence Day speech at the country’s independence celebrations.

Despite the online obstacle, some protestors gathered in the capital Minsk, on Sunday, to engage in protests, however, security forces acted swiftly and arrested several demonstrators.

Lukashenko described the protests as being a move to overthrow his government, according to published reports.

In a statement Friday the Belarus president said, “stomping, clapping, bellowing and roaring on squares and streets cannot solve problems and, what matters most, cannot earn money.”

July 3 marks the anniversary of the end of Nazi rule in Minsk, which ended in 1944.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Belarus Struggles to Make Sense of April Terror Attack

VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images(MINSK, Belarus) -- The crowd outside the Oktoberskaya metro station in Minsk silently studies the makeshift tribute to those slain in last week's terror attack.

Handwritten prayers, poems and photos of Jesus are tucked amongst the many floral tributes.  The photographs of 12 of the victims -- seven men and five women -- are surrounded by mounds of flowers and scores of candles; their photos resemble snapshots from high school yearbooks of varying ages.

But they are in fact obituary images from those killed in the April 11 attack that has now left 13 dead and more than 200 wounded.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, the man that has ruled the country for 17 years since the breakup of the Soviet Union, has declared the case solved.

Five men, spotted in surveillance video from the many cameras that constantly watch the city, have been recognized and caught.

They immediately professed their guilt, not only to the recent attack on Minsk's transport system but also previous attacks in 2008 that had previously been unresolved.

"There is no doubt they did it," states a man at a cafe in Minsk.  He, like others who question this authoritarian government, prefers not to be identified.

"But the question," he adds, "is who told them to do it."  He shrugs when asked how it is possible that they were caught so quickly.

Like many, he hints that the government itself could have been behind it.

"Idiots" is what President Lukashenko calls those who think the bombing was a government plot to discredit the opposition and distract Belarusians from a rapidly deteriorating economy.

Authorities are still trying to determine the motive.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Metro Bomb Blast Kills at Least Seven in Belarus

Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images(MINSK, Belarus) --  At least seven people were killed on Monday in a bomb blast at the Oktyabrskaya metro station in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus. 

The blast, which injured at least 35 people, occurred as the train was pulling into the station before 6:00 p.m. local time. The cause is not immediately known.

The station is near the offices of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarus’ government has become increasingly repressive since Lukashenko’s re-election and subsequent protests in December 2010.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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