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Published: 9 august 2012 10:41

Lithuanian Defense Minister supports Sweden in rows with Belarus over teddy bear incident

Rasa Juknevičienė
Andriaus Ufarto/BFL nuotr. / Rasa Juknevičienė

Lithuania has no information about the "teddy bear" incident in Belarus, and Minsk's request for legal assistance would be processed following the law, Lithuania's Minister of National Defense Rasa Juknevičienė said on Thursday.

"There was definitely no violation of Lithuania's airspace. Various small private planes are regularly present in Lithuania, and there were some of them at that time but no violations were recorded. If we receive a request for assistance, then Lithuanian institutions will process it pursuant to existing laws," the minister told the Žinių Radijas (News Radio).

"Lithuania has no information about such an incident," she added.

Swedish activists announced last month they had flown into the territory of Belarus and dropped hundreds of teddy bears on parachutes with messages supporting freedom of speech and human rights.

The plane reportedly entered Belarus from Lithuania. According to Belorussian media reports, Minsk has asked Lithuania and Sweden for legal assistance in investigating alleged state border violation when a Swedish light aircraft crossed the Lithuanian-Belorussian border on 4 July.

The incident sparked a diplomatic conflict between Belarus and Sweden. Minsk announced its decision on Wednesday to recall all diplomats from Sweden and order Stockholm to recall its entire diplomatic staff from Minsk.

The Lithuanian defense minister said on Thursday she had no official information about Belarus' legal assistance request. According to Juknevičienė, Lithuania expresses solidarity with Sweden, and Belarus' actions are inappropriate.

"We only have to express solidarity with Sweden. Such behavior, expelling diplomats is very strange and violates the principle of good neighborhood and inter-state cooperation," the minister said.

Request sent to justice Ministry

The Belorussian Embassy in Vilnius says a legal assistance request for the investigation of the alleged state border violation on 4 July was sent to Lithuania's Ministry of Justice.

"We sent it to the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania. Our motive is to identify all circumstances of and reasons for crossing the border of the Republic of Lithuania and the European Union," the embassy's spokesman Herman Puzyrnyj told BNS on Thursday.

The Belorussian authorities initially denied the fact such a flight took place. But after less than a month, President Alexander Lukashenko sacked the heads of the country's air force and border service.

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