Belarus has lost the right to host the World Ice Hockey Championship

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Belarus has lost the right to host the Ice Hockey World Championship this year due to security concerns related to the political situation in this country, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. This was announced by the International Ice Hockey Federation.

The IFC’s decision deprives Alexander Lukashenko of the opportunity to hold the largest international event planned in Belarus after the presidential elections held here in August last year. We remind that, as the opposition of Belarus declares, Lukashenka’s victory in these elections was the result of rigging..

«The United States continues to support international efforts to independently investigate electoral violations in Belarus, electoral human rights violations and the ensuing repression. We support the brave people of Belarus and support their right to free and fair elections», – said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Representatives of the Belarusian opposition called to deprive the country of the right to host the World Cup due to repressions against the protesters.

At the end of last year, a group of American congressmen and members of parliaments of a number of European countries addressed an open letter to the International Ice Hockey Federation with a request to deprive Belarus of the right to host the World Ice Hockey Championship in 2021..

«We ask you to reconsider the possibility of holding the Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus next year. Belarus, like any other country that does not embody the ethics of sportsmanship and human rights, should not enjoy the privilege of holding such a coveted event until the rights, freedoms and sovereignty of their people are fully respected and represented by their government.», – the letter says.

A number of companies, in particular Skoda Auto, Liqui Moly and Volkswagen, sponsors of the tournament, in the past few days have threatened to refuse to participate in the tournament if the event takes place in Minsk. The IFC says it has consulted with experts and stakeholders regarding the holding of the tournament in the Belarusian capital in light of political unrest and weak measures to prevent COVID-19.

It was found that «it is currently impossible to ensure the well-being of teams, spectators and officials during the World Cup in Belarus». Last week Lukashenka tried to assure the IFC that Belarus can safely host the tournament.

The leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya welcomed the decision of the International Ice Hockey Federation, stating that it is the result of active actions on the part of Lukashenka’s opponents.

«This is a victory for every Belarusian who knows that hockey – this is a game, and Belarusians do not plan to play with criminals», – she wrote on social networks. – This is our common victory».

Alexandra Gerasimenya, three-time Olympic medalist and head of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Fund, said that «the decision of the IFC restored the faith of the Belarusian society in justice. Sports events cannot be held in countries where violence and torture are used against civilians».

The IFC said it will consider Latvia’s status as a co-organizer given its joint application with Belarus, adding that it will consider hosting the tournament in one location to facilitate travel and implement medical measures. Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said that his country will fulfill its obligations and assess whether it will be able to host the event, which will be held from May 21 to June 6.

Ales Bialiatski: «Sports should not be done with dirty hands»

Chairman of the Human Rights Center «Spring» Ales Bialiatski in an interview with the Russian Service «Voices of America» recalled that his organization, together with the International Federation for Human Rights, had previously issued a statement that it is completely inappropriate to hold the Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus now, given the unprecedented level of repression and the socio-political crisis in the country. According to him, arrests and criminal trials take place every day in different cities of the republic..

«The government does not react in any way to the assessment of the international community of what is happening in Belarus, – he added. – At the same time, Lukashenko considers sports as one of the props of his ideology, and in connection with the planned hockey championship, a comparison always came to my mind with the Olympic Games in Nazi Germany in 1936. I was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (the Winter Games were held there – V.V.) and I perfectly understand how skillfully authoritarian regimes use sports to strengthen their legitimacy and their greatness. Lukashenka is acting exactly the same way».

Belarus has lost the right to host the World Ice Hockey Championship

In addition, hockey for Alexander Lukashenko – favorite toy, the human rights activist noted: «The whole of Belarus is built up with ice rinks, he has always personally supported hockey as a sport. And the fact that now the world community has shown adherence to principles and achieved its goal is simply wonderful. Sports should not be done with dirty hands».

If the championship was held in Minsk, the state propaganda would use it to strengthen its positions, says Ales Bialiatski. «Several hundred political prisoners are now languishing in prisons., – he stressed. – Among them is my colleague, who was imprisoned just yesterday. This is a human rights activist from Gomel, Leonid Sudalenko, who has been involved in human rights activities for 20 years. He was detained on charges that he provided financial assistance to people who were fined for participating in peaceful demonstrations. What will be next? Repressions fell upon journalists, human rights defenders, and trade union activists. In this situation, holding the World Cup in Belarus is like having a feast during the plague.».

Therefore, the fact that the International Ice Hockey Federation was forced to transfer the championship from Belarus is absolutely correct and fair, the chairman of the human rights center summed up «Spring».

Yaroslav Romanchuk: «Hockey for Lukashenka – a kind of totem pole»

The head of the Mises Research Center, Yaroslav Romanchuk, agrees that the cancellation of the hockey championship in Minsk – a sensitive measure for the Lukashenka regime. In his opinion, this is in some ways even more effective than sanctions and condemning resolutions.

«Hockey for Lukashenka – a kind of totem pole, which he placed almost at the very center of his economic policy, – asserts the interlocutor «Voices of America». – For him, hockey – much more than just sports. It was big politics, a kind of banner of his imaginary achievements. And, of course, the refusal to host the World Championship in Belarus, in my opinion, is a very painful psychological blow for him. In any case, nothing else, obviously, will no longer sober him up and make him think about his behavior.». T

Yaroslav Romanchuk believes that this step can throw Lukashenka off balance: «I think that he perceives this more acutely than measures associated, for example, with the imposition of sanctions against individual enterprises and individuals. So, without exaggeration, these are the most effective actions of the international community in relation to what is happening in Belarus..

Of course, there were very serious concerns in the republic that the championship would still be held in Minsk, said the head of the Mises Research Center. «Especially these sentiments intensified after the last meeting of the head of the International Ice Hockey Federation with Lukashenka. But the decision that took place returned hope for justice and confirmed that the West in critical situations will not agree to some kind of agreement (with the regime)», – concluded by Yaroslav Romanchuk.

Belarus has lost the right to host the World Ice Hockey Championship