Next year's men's ice hockey World Cup will be co-arranged between the main organizer Belarus (Minsk) and Latvia (Riga) and the tournament will be played from 21 May to 6 June.

Sweden plays its matches in Minsk.

But after Sunday's election, in which President Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected by a large majority, accusations of electoral fraud quickly came to light and widespread demonstrations were crushed. Around 7,000 protesters have been arrested and when 1,000 of them were released on Friday, testimonies of torture and ill-treatment came.

"Does not feel good"

Opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya called for further protests.

- It is clear that I as chairman and we in the union follow the development via what is reported in the media. Several of the elements that have been portrayed here in Sweden describe an image that does not feel good at all. Then I think with that said that it is important that we as an ice hockey association look at our role and that is to focus on ice hockey, says Anders Larsson and continues:

- We have collaborations with many different nations in terms of hockey, but when it comes to the political dimension and aspect, we follow guidelines from our international federation and our government. We as a hockey association do not conduct any foreign policy.

Belarus / Latvia was voted in battle with Finland as organizer in connection with the IIHF Congress 2017. It is only six years since Belarus, which is usually called Europe's last dictatorship, hosted its last World Cup and it was preceded by extensive protests internationally.

Latvia can jump off

TT: Is it possible to justify a World Cup in Belarus with what is happening there now?

- These discussions come up in connection with major events and a lesson and experience from many other major international events is that sports in place can shed light on many issues and mean a lot for both openness and democracy, says Larsson.

Over the next two weeks, the IIHF will follow developments in Belarus, but according to the Russian news agency Tass, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins already wants to drop out of the co-operation.

- I believe that the events in Belarus are dramatically changing the situation. Now I do not see how we as a country can organize the World Cup together with Belarus, says Karins to the TV channel LTV7.

Anders Larsson sees problems in front of him if Latvia drops out:

- We all know how big a World Cup event is and when we are less than a year ahead of planning, it would be problematic. But I have great confidence that the IIHF can handle that situation.

Last season's men's World Cup, which was supposed to have been played in Switzerland, was canceled due to the corona pandemic.