Horst Lichtner, secretary general of the International Hockey Federation IIHF, said on Saturday that neither the Latvian government nor other politicians could blackmail the union in connection with the World Cup in Belarus.
- It is not acceptable for politicians to demand a political signal from us.
Politicians who do not find solutions themselves.
We will not allow ourselves to be blackmailed, Licthner commented on the German radio station Deutschlandfunk.
The comments refer to the Latvian government, which, along with Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karinsia, has stated that the country does not want to host the World Cup with Belarus.
The Games are scheduled for May 21-June 6, 2021 in Minsk and Riga.
Lichtner criticized the Latvian government for making its demands without discussing the matter with the local World Cup organizing committee.
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The IIHF entered into an agreement with the host countries four years ago, and Lichtner said the union could not decide to go in violation of the agreement.
- No one can demand that of us.
We are not breach of contract.
We are a world federation.
We don’t turn around saying, “Sorry we did wrong.
Now we go elsewhere, Licthner commented.
The human rights situation in Belarus, the unrest and the general insecurity that have led to major demonstrations in Belarus, led by President Alexander Lukashenko, have spoken around the world for several months now, alongside the country's corona situation.
According to the Latvian government, the safety of players and fans cannot be guaranteed in Belarus.
The IIHF has set up an expert group on security issues.
Read more: Can Belarus host next spring's Ice Hockey World Cup?
The IIHF set up a group of experts - the decision will last at least until November
- We will not go to a country that is in chaos or in the middle of a revolution, Lichtner says, but states that the union will not be allowed to give up the Games if the situation in Minsk is “quite normal”.
The Secretary-General invokes the IIHF's legislation that the union must not be political.
Licthner does not want to break the law.
He points out that the Games were held in Belarus in 2014 and although the situation is now different, “the country is the same”.
- I'm sure that if Belarus will return to a normal way of life, the World Cup will be fantastic in Riga, Latvia, and Minsk in Belarus, Lichtner says.
The International Hockey Federation will hold a crucial meeting on 18 November.