Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Sweden and Belarus -Freedom or Rudeness?

The EU intends to impose new sanctions against Belarus after the scandal between Minsk and Stockholm. Obviously, Minsk, offended with no reason, is to blame. It has to do not with the teddy bears with anti-government slogans and even not the illegal crossing of the Belarus border, but the persecution of the Belarusian authorities and arrogant behavior of the Swedish ambassador and foreign minister.

The situation brings memories of Mathias Rust's landing on Red Square in 1987. Sweden has positioned itself as a fervent champion of human rights in Belarus. However, protecting the rights does not mean going beyond diplomatic etiquette and rules of conduct in a foreign country, not to mention encouraging violations of international law.

On July 4, light aircraft piloted by the citizens of Sweden  dropped about a thousand teddy bears with anti-government slogans near Minsk, in the town of Ivenets. The campaign was planned by the Swedish PR company Studio Total and was implemented immediately after the celebration of the Independence Day of Belarus.
The light aircraft was flying at ultra-low height not get into the field of view of radar stations of the Belarusian air defense system. The Belarusian authorities did not recognize the fact of the flight until July 26, stating that "the check was conducted." Then there was a criminal investigation into the illegal crossing of the state borders. Photographer Anton Suryapin who posted the material about the incident on the Internet, as well as Sergei Basharimov, a realtor who rented out an apartment in Minsk to the Swedes, were detained. The Swedish border violators were invited to testify and did not deny their actions.
"In the interest of objective criminal investigation and to ascertain all the circumstances of the violations of the airspace of the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Lithuania, the State Security Committee invited the Swedish subjects who participated in organizing and implementing the illegal movement across the border, to arrive in Minsk to take part in the investigation as suspects. Based on the results, final appropriate procedural decisions will be made against Belarusian citizens who are criminally charged," said in a statement TSIOS KGB.

After that, President Lukashenko removed from office the State Border Committee Chairman, Major-General Igor Raczkowski and Commander of Air Force and Air Defense Forces, Major-General Dmitry Pahmelkin. These are the facts, but they did not cause the international scandal. The Belarusian leadership was surprised by the position of the officials - Swedish diplomats, who showed a rather low professional level. Instead of apologizing for the wrong behavior of its citizens, Ambassador Stefan Eriksson who feels passionate about the methods of the opposition in his residence, peppered Twitter with the statements approving the campaign.

"There are reports that in 2010 Stefan Eriksson has repeatedly given instructions and money to radical groups, extremists who were preparing military action against Belarus," said channel ONT on August 3. It is logical that Ericsson's accreditation was not renewed. Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted: "We are still determined to defend freedom in Belarus and its citizens. They deserve the freedoms and rights enjoyed by the European countries." In response, British Foreign Minister William Hague commented: "Sweden can be proud of its role as a defender of human rights in Belarus".

"Belarusian state media launched a campaign of slander against Sweden, and our ambassador," Bildt was quoted by Daily Mail.

Naturally, the U.S. Department of State also commented on the situation. The U.S. is "deeply concerned" by recent events, said spokesman Patrick Ventrell, and added that they "only deepen the isolation of Belarus." Perhaps the State Department believes that the world is limited to the U.S. and EU. Official Russia, that is an ally of Belarus and has relations with it, did not respond, which adds honor neither to Russia nor its relationship. Many compare this flight with the flight of Matthias Rust. "This is a shame! We are not behaving as a civilized country, but as a rogue state. Note that the Soviet Union did not kick out the ambassador of Germany when Rust came to Red Square. They were educated people, no matter how terrible. Here, ignorance reigns," AFN quoted the former Chief of Supreme Council Stanislav Shushkevich.

Shushkevich forgot how the events of those days unfolded. On May 28, 1987, the national Day of Frontier Guard was marked by a scandal - German Mathias Rust landed his light airplane on Red Square. A day after the incident, an emergency meeting of the Politburo took place, after which the defense minister, a Hero of the Soviet Union and air defense commander, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, lost their titles. Some middle-level commanders also lost their jobs.
In early August, Gorbachev "forgave" Rust, because the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl personally apologized. On his return to Germany, the pilot faced problems. The media called him a madman and a provocateur who put peace at risk. A criminal case was filed and closed. Obviously, the ambassadors used to be much more professional, and foreign intelligence - not so headstrong.