Riga (AFP)

Latvia no longer wishes to co-host the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship with Belarus after the disputed re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, and is looking for a new partner, the Latvian government said in a statement on Monday.

"Given the current situation in Belarus, we proposed to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) that the 2021 World Championship no longer be held in Minsk but in another country, while Riga would remain the co-host city. ", explained Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins.

This stance echoes the protests against Lukashenko's re-election that have been taking place across the country for several days.

The opening of the Mondial-2021 is scheduled for May 21, 2021, while the 2020 edition has been canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Our priority is to do everything, if the situation does not change in Belarus, to withdraw the World Championship there and find another country to host them," added Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics.

For its part, the IIHF ensures "to have taken note of the requests of the Latvian government", but maintains "its main objective of organizing the 2021 World Championship in Minsk and Riga".

"We will continue our work with the organizing committee and we will remain in close contact with the stakeholders of the two countries concerned", continues the International Federation, which specifies that "the Council of the IIHF will meet again in mid -September to discuss the situation and advise of any tournament status updates.

In addition to the political situation in Belarus, the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic is "another factor that could affect the ability of both countries to host the World Championship" according to the IIHF.

"We will continue to work with the organizers of the tournament and act in full compliance with the preservation of the health and safety of players, spectators and officials," adds the body.

© 2020 AFP