KIEV - A Belarussian court has sentenced a man to 10 days in detention for staging a "toy protest" mimicking recent rallies using teddy bears to challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in neighboring Russia, a local human rights group said on Wednesday.
Opposition activist Pavel Vinogradov, who police say staged the Feb. 10 protest, was found guilty of breaking regulations on public gatherings and protests, rights group Vesna-96 said.Toy bears and rabbits he had put on a bench in front of the Minsk mayor's office carried banners such as "Police have ripped my eye out", "Where is media freedom?" and "Alejandro, let the people go", a mocking appeal to President Alexander Lukashenko.
Protests involving teddy bears carrying protest banners and Lego men were first reported in the city of Barnaul in Russia, where they are now staged regularly against Putin who is widely expected to return as president next month.
Lukashenko, who has run the former Soviet republic since 1994 tolerating little dissent, has become target of sanctions by the United States and the European Unbion for cracking down on a public protest after his re-election in December 2010.