Because of the massive repression against the democracy movement in Belarus, members of the Bundestag are calling for the ice hockey world championship to be withdrawn from the authoritarian country. “The World Cup cannot and must not take place in a country where the state is committing massive human rights violations, violently suppressing peaceful protests and brutally persecuting and imprisoning all critics,” said Bundestag Vice President Claudia Roth (Greens) the Tagesspiegel.
The World Cup is to be held in Belarus and Latvia from May 21 to June 5. Alexander Lukashenko’s regime has been taking massive action against peaceful demonstrators since an internationally criticized election last August. Several people died after being mistreated.
“Lukashenko’s brutal and unscrupulous actions against his own population are completely unacceptable and must not be rewarded with the public staging of a World Cup,” said Roth. It is time for the federal government to show its colors and to work with the German Ice Hockey Federation and the International Ice Hockey Federation to withdraw Belarus from hosting the World Cup.
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Support for this demand also comes from the coalition. “The ice hockey world championship should not take place in Belarus,” said the deputy union leader Johann Wadephul (CDU) the Tagesspiegel. “The repeatedly brutal action taken by those in power against peaceful demonstrators and the arrest of more than 30,000 people, including targeted athletes, completely contradicts the spirit, values and goals of the sport.” An ice hockey World Cup in Belarus would only be Lukashenko legitimize.
The chairman of the Bundestag Human Rights Committee, Gyde Jensen (FDP), emphasized that politics cannot and should not impose any requirements on sport. The sport is independent, but not apolitical either. “It would be a gross mistake to host the World Cup in Belarus in view of the current events.” Jensen also fears that Lukashenko would take this as confirmation. It is not about a boycott of the sporting event, stressed the FDP politician. The ice hockey world championship could take place entirely in Latvia.
The head of the ice hockey association hugged Lukashenko
A decision on this issue could be made on January 25th and 26th, when the Council of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) meets. Latvia’s government had called for Belarus to be withdrawn. On Monday, the association’s president, René Fasel, traveled to Minsk and met Lukashenko, whom he hugged in greeting. Lukashenko announced that the ice hockey world championship could take place and, with a swipe at the USA, emphasized that no government building would be stormed in his country. “Fasel joins the unspeakable tradition of many sports officials who shake hands with dictators and court them,” criticized Claudia Roth.
After criticizing his friendly embrace with Lukashenko, the Swiss functionary tried to justify himself. The whole thing went “stupid”, in retrospect this was “embarrassing” to him, Fasel told the broadcaster SRF. He has known Lukashenko for 20 years and wanted to use the “special relationship” “to do something good,” he emphasized. “So that the World Cup leads to a kind of reconciliation between the government and the opposition.”
Association chief wants to hold on to the World Cup in Belarus
The head of the association left no doubt that he wants to hold on to the sporting event in Belarus. A cancellation will not change the situation in the country. Fasel also referred to the existing contract with the Belarusian ice hockey association. “It is our duty to host the Ice Hockey World Championship. There would also be consequences if they were not held now. “
Fasel also met with the head of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation, Dmitry Baskov, who is accused of being responsible for the death of an opposition member. The international association has launched an investigation into the allegations against Baskov, and Baskov has been banned from entering Latvia.
Oppositionist Roman Bondarenko died in November after being beaten up by masked men. Baskov is accused of having been there and watching the attack.