AForeign Minister Heiko Maas Wegen is in favor of withdrawing the Ice Hockey World Cup from Belarus because of the massive repression against the democracy movement. “Anyone who is serious about solidarity with Belarus cannot seriously want to hold a world championship in this situation,” the SPD politician told the newspapers of the “Funke Mediengruppe” (Thursday).
“That would be the greatest PR gift for Lukashenko and a devastating signal to the demonstrators. I hope that the organizers will see that too. That is not a question of political calculation, but of attitude, ”said Maas (54) in the direction of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
The World Cup will take place from May 21 to June 5 in Belarus and Latvia’s capital Riga. Lukashenka, who is regarded as the “last dictator in Europe”, is facing international criticism for serious crimes against humanity. The EU no longer recognizes him as president since the election of August 9th, which was classified as falsified. EU member Latvia rejected a joint World Cup with Belarus. The World Cup had already taken place in Minsk in 2014.
Due to massive police violence against those who think differently and a lack of protective measures in the corona pandemic, Belarus is highly controversial as a World Cup location. The protests against Lukashenka have seen more than 30,000 arrests, hundreds of injuries and numerous deaths since August. The EU has imposed sanctions on Lukashenka’s apparatus of power. A decision could be made on January 25th and 26th, when the IIHF Executive Committee discusses the problem of hosting the World Cup.
Other German politicians had previously called for the World Cup to be withdrawn. “Anyone who risks a World Cup leading to further suppression, arrests and torture is complicit,” said Monika Lazar, the sports policy spokeswoman, and Manuel Sarrazin, an Eastern European politician, on Wednesday. A World Cup in Minsk would indirectly legitimize Lukashenka’s crimes.