Belarus-Sweden relations take a hit after pro-human rights stunt involving teddy bears
On Wednesday, Belarus ordered Sweden to close its embassy in Minsk by the month’s end. This new blow to Swedish-Belarussian relations came after the Swedish ambassador was expelled from the country on Friday.
According to BBC news, Minsk withdrew its own envoy to Stockholm because the Swedish ambassador held a meeting with the Belarussian opposition.
On July 4th, Swedish human rights activists dropped hundreds of teddy bears attached to human rights messages into Belarus. BBC news reports that in reaction to this incident, President Lukashenko fired his air defense chief and head of border guards.
Alexander Lukashenko, Belarussian president since 1994, is being investigated by EU states over the lack of human rights in his country. European Voice reports that Belarus has been subject to EU sanctions since 1996, and these will continue until the country’s track record on human rights improves.
Belarus is currently part of the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative to deepen trade agreements between the EU and East European countries.