If Belarus President, Alexander Lukashenko, went for a walk in the woods today he'd be in for a nasty surprise.
Operation Teddybear Airdrop Minsk 201, the brainchild of three activists who work for a Swedish PR agency, involved throwing out of a light aircraft 879 Teddy bears, each containing a pro-democracy message.
The plane flew from Lithuania with Tomas Mazetti and Hannah Frey on board, crossing the Belarussian border, "We flew the plane at 50 metres – that's 150 feet – for one and a half hours inside Belarus. Of course we were aware of the risks," said Mazetti, adding, "But we will not do it again tomorrow, if I put it that way."
Their aim was to support democracy activists inside the nation described as the last dictatorship in Europe, where even clapping is banned, and to embarrass the military.
Lukashenko reacted by denying any incident had taken place, even after videos of the flight and airdrop were circulated on the internet. However, a journalism student, Anton Surapin found examples of the subversive bears and posted photos on the internet, leading to his arrest.
The Belarus government has announced that two senior military figures have been dismissed over the intrusion. Major General Dmitry Pakhmelkin, the air force chief, and Major General Igor Rachkovsky, chairman of the State Border Committee have lost their jobs, being accused of "failing to ensure national security".
In an open letter, the PR company's founder, Per Cromwell, told the Belarussian dictator, "You're a clown" and taunted Lukashenko, "Recently, you announced that you, personally, guaranteed the effectiveness of the Belarus defence. You have spent 20 billions of euros on an air defence system that could not detect a homebuilt aeroplane with a cargo of teddy bears."
Cromwell continues, "Though in the long run, not even a heavily armed clown can stop people from laughing. And when people laugh at you, not even your friends will want to stick around."
The PR expert also has some advice to the leader, "Our advice to you is this: pull yourself together, before it is too late. Use some of the financial resources you're spending on the KGB and military parades to help the nation out of its financial crisis. More importantly. Be less politically active. Perhaps you could play a little more hockey? They tell us you are quite good at that! And wouldn't it feel good to win without cheating, for a change? You are the leader of a fantastic people. They deserve change."
Noting that two Belarussians are under arrest for assisting the activists and are facing sentances of seven years imprisonment, Cromwell makes an offer, "But If you absolutely must jail and abuse people – why not invite us? After all, we were the ones who flew the plane, not some poor guy who happened to sell us chocolate. We promise you to come and answer all your questions and tell you everything about the operation. How we flew, how we cheated your air-defence systems and so on. All you need to do is to promise not to torture some innocent passer-by, in your frustration.
"Or maybe we should just fly by some day? In good time for the your hockey world cup, for example"