• Lukashenko fired two generals over the teddy bear incident (Photo: studiototal.se)

Belarus expels Swedish ambassador after teddy bear fiasco

03.08.12 @ 22:15

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - Belarus has kicked out Sweden's ambassador to Minsk in a rerun of events six months ago.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt tweeted on Friday (3 August) that the diplomat, Stefan Eriksson, was expelled "for being too supportive of human rights." He added: "Outrageous. Shows nature of regime."

The Swedish foreign ministry said it will give marching orders to Belarus' envoy to Stockholm and some of his colleagues in return.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the Political and Security Committee, a group of high-level EU diplomats, will at its next meeting in Brussels also discuss "appropriate EU measures."

A Belarusian foreign ministry spokesman, Andrei Savinykh, told the Belta news agency that Eriksson was "destroying" Belarusian-Swedish relations.

"If the Swedish side is eager to aggravate the situation, we will be forced to respond adequately," he added.

The dispute comes after a Swedish advertising agency, Studio Total, in July air-dropped teddy bears in Belarus with little parachutes and placards calling for free speech.

President Alexander Lukashanko fired two security chiefs in response and said future intruders will be shot down.

Belarus in February expelled the EU and the Polish ambassadors to Minsk because the EU imposed sanctions on one of his oligarch friends.

The EU at the time pulled out all its Belarus ambassadors in solidarity. They trickled back a few weeks later to resume work.

Tit-for-tat expulsions also took place in 1998 when Lukashenko wanted to evict EU and US diplomats from a leafy residential compound so he could live there himself.

His methods included cutting off water and welding shut the gate of the US envoy's residence.

The ambassadors returned in 1999, after Belarus pledged to respect international law on diplomats' rights.