Alyaksandr Lukashenka has met with Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), who arrived in Minsk on Monday.
During the meeting, the politician stated there would be no danger of holding the 2021 World Cup in Belarus either in terms of the pandemic or in terms of ‘political security or physical security of people who live here and people who will come as guests’.
“Protesters and other dissatisfied people do not storm government offices and capitols here. We have a perfectly normal situation in terms of democratic processes. This is the main reason why some politicians in Europe are discontent with Belarus. They want to accuse me of defending my country and people, but this is why the people elected me. I have an obligation to ensure public, internal and external security of people and the state. Maybe some in the West do not like my actions in this regard, but this is up to them,” the press service quotes Lukashenka.
According to him, Belarus is ready to host the championship even if Latvia refuses to co-host, but the IIHF should succeed ‘in fending off unfair pressure’.
As reported earlier, the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Zurich and Lausanne was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. In May 2020, the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation announced its decision not to apply to the IIHF to move this year’s championship to 2021. Consequently, the 2021 championship was expected to take place in Minsk and Riga which had won the right to host the corresponding event in the year of 2021. However, due to the rigged elections and the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters, a large international movement to deprive Belarus of this right is gaining pace.
In November, Latvia banned Belarusian Ice Hockey Association Head Dzmitry Baskau and boxer Dzmitry Shakuta from entering its territory ‘for an unspecified period’ after a number of sportspeople and Internet users familiar with the situation identified Baskau and Shakuta (who belong to Alyksandr Lukashenka’s coterie) in photos and videos of the masked persons who brutally attacked protester Raman Bandarenka. On November 12, the Minsker slipped into a coma and died of severe head injuries.
In late December, a number of Western media reported that the 2021 World Ice Hockey Championship would definitely not be held in Belarus due to the current political situation. Later, Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin, vice-president of the IIHF Kalervo Kummola, head of the Danish Hockey Union Ulrik Larsen, as well as members of the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag called for a boycott or postponement of the World Hockey Cup.