In Latvia against the holding of the World Ice Hockey Championship in Belarus
Will Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s Visit to Minsk Help the Chief Hockey&# 160; official?&# 160;– expert opinion&# 160;
President of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Rene Fasel visited the capital of Belarus. On Monday, January 11, in Minsk, he held talks with Alexander Lukashenko on the prospects for the 2021 World Cup. It was originally planned that the ice hockey world championship games will be held in Belarus and Latvia. However, after the presidential elections in Belarus, marked by massive falsifications and brutal suppression of peaceful protests, representatives of the Belarusian civil society, as well as a number of countries participating in the upcoming championship, appealed to the International Ice Hockey Association to abandon a number of matches in Belarus..
Rene Fasel is known as an active supporter of the thesis «sport should be out of politics». Shortly before his trip to Minsk, he announced the upcoming negotiations with Lukashenka: «we will discuss the current situation, we will do everything possible to ensure that the world championship is held in Minsk. For this we will make every effort».
Alexander Lukashenko liked this position of the chief hockey official: «As the president of the federation and a personal friend of Belarus, I want to assure you that there is no danger on any issues in Belarus and there will not be — neither for coronavirus, nor in terms of political security or physical safety of people who live here and come to us as guests», – he said to Rene Fasel. And he added: «If Latvia refuses — we will hold the world championship in Belarus, and it will be the best world championship in history… If the International Ice Hockey Federation does not cope with the pressure of certain political circles of individual countries — it means that there will be no world championship in Belarus. It all depends on you now».
In turn, the ex-presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya This is how she commented on the meeting of the President of the International Ice Hockey Association with Alexander Lukashenko: «Rene Fasel’s visit to Minsk showed an inconsistency that could harm the reputation of the IIHF itself. A sports festival cannot be held in a country where political prisoners are sitting in punishment cells a few kilometers from ice arenas. Swiss Fasel could defend Swiss citizen Natalia Hersche, who “fair trial” sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for breaking a balaklava from a riot policeman. Instead, he hesitates to make statements and questions respect for the Belarusian people.».
Correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America» turned to Latvian experts to find out their point of view on the upcoming Ice Hockey World Cup.
«I suppose that with current technologies it is possible to hold the World Championship in Riga»
Agency Director «Latvian facts» sociologist Arnis Freimanis (Arnis Freimanis) notes that the overwhelming majority of Latvian politicians, including the opposition, oppose the holding of part of the upcoming World Cup on the ice rinks of today’s Belarus. «There are, of course, other opinions that sometimes seep into public space. But the feeling is that those who are against sharing the championship with Belarus speak louder and more often than those who would be ready to agree to “certain conditions for resolving the situation” etc. In general, the established opinion prevails in the political elite “we are against holding the World Cup together with Belarus”.
This, of course, is due to the ambiguity of the situation in the neighboring country, because of the policy pursued by the Lukashenka regime, and all this has accumulated since last summer.», – noted Freimanis in a comment for «Voices of America».
Representatives of a small group, who in Latvia advocate holding matches in Belarus, are, according to the expert, as a rule, sports officials, and first of all – representatives of the International Ice Hockey Association, repeating the phrase after Fasel «sport – out of politics». «Although some of these people, since last autumn, have also begun to speak out rather skeptically about the joint holding of the championship. And the reason for this is information leaks, that the Scandinavian countries, strong in hockey, such as Sweden and Finland, will not go to Belarus if the matches of the upcoming championship are also held there.», – specifies the director of the agency «Latvian facts».
By the way, on January 12, the following statement by the President of the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation, Harri Nummel, was published: «No competitions can and should not be held in Belarus. We need a new tournament organizer. Alternatively, you can play all the matches of the tournament in Latvia.». Mr. Nummela stressed that Finland plans to boycott the 2021 World Cup in hockey in Minsk and does not exclude the option of boycotting the event by his country if the right to hold the event remains in the hands of the current Belarusian authorities. Earlier it became that Denmark will do the same.
Arnis Freimanis also recalled the statements of some Latvian politicians that the country can single-handedly host the upcoming World Ice Hockey Championship, since there is the experience of 2006, when Riga hosted the championship from 5 to 21 May. «Then initially there was not enough one ice rink, which was built in a few months. And I suppose that with current technology it is also possible to do this. Although, recently, skeptical voices have been voiced, claiming that such events lose their meaning if they are held in front of empty stands due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.», – concludes the interlocutor of the Russian service «Voices of America».
«Today, no one perceives Lukashenko as a legitimate president»
Chief editor of the portal kompromat.lv Leonid Yakobson, on the contrary, he doubts that Latvia will pull the upcoming world ice hockey championship alone. In an interview with the correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America» he said: «I think that given the pandemic, this is impossible. There is a clear understanding in Latvia that the vaccination problem is unlikely to be fully resolved before the summer. Since the vaccination campaign has not yet begun on a massive scale, and it is unlikely that it will be possible to organize such a large-scale event in May without the participation of other countries. At least, to this day, I have not heard the statements of the highest Latvian officials that the country would dare to take such a step. And therefore, various scenarios are now being considered. – I even read that, allegedly, Moscow is ready to take over the organization of those matches for which Lukashenka was supposed to be responsible».
At the same time, Leonid Yakobson notes that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who reprimanded the IIHF president, is in constant contact with the head of the Latvian Foreign Ministry Edgars Rinkevich. And he on his Twitter responded to Rene Fasel’s visit to Minsk: «I confirm the position of Latvia that holding the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk is completely unacceptable. Repression of peaceful demonstrators, including athletes, makes such an event immoral and contrary to the principles of sports behavior. We are awaiting the final decision of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) on this issue.».
«Let me remind you that since the summer, mass actions of solidarity with the Belarusian people have been held in Latvia – people took to the streets demanding the release of political prisoners and condemning those who maimed and killed peaceful demonstrators. And no one in Latvia today plans to do anything with the Lukashenka regime, let alone the World Ice Hockey Championship. Because it can legitimize this regime. And, of course, in Latvia they understand that in this case, sport cannot be separated from politics, and that allowing Lukashenka to hold the World Cup is – not only a violation of common sense, but just something completely unacceptable», – approved by the chief editor of the portal kompromat.lv.
Answering the question, to what extent is the so-called «lookout» (that is, understanding and justifying the motives of Alexander Lukashenko’s behavior), Leonid Yakobson notes: «Much less than support for Putin’s policies. By the way, before the summer events began, Lukashenka was perceived in Latvia as a fairly reliable partner. And even Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins traveled to Minsk, where he discussed not only the World Cup, but also the establishment of economic ties. But what happened after August 9 completely ruled out all the possibilities for communication with Lukashenka. And today no one here perceives him as a legitimate president.», – concluded the interlocutor «Voices of America».