Ice hockey boss regrets ‘warm welcome’ scenes with Lukashenko

Fasel (right) says the meeting with Lukashenko in Minsk on Monday should not be seen as a political statement in the ongoing dispute in Belarus. Keystone/Nikolai Petrov/Pool

The president of the Swiss-based international ice hockey federation, René Fasel, has apologized for a public embrace with the embattled president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.

This content was published on January 13, 2021 - 11:09

Fasel, a Swiss national at the helm of the federationExternal link since 1994, told Swiss public television SRF on Tuesday that pictures of the meeting with Lukashenko were “embarrassing” and he said they should not be seen as support for political repression in the country.

According to Fasel, the aim of the meeting with the Belarussian strongman was to discuss the planned ice hockey championship to be co-hosted by Belarus in May and June.

“I wanted to use my good relationship with Lukashenko to do something positive,” Fasel said, adding that he hoped to convince Lukashenko to send a positive signal to the Belarussian opposition and agree to a dialogue.

“Imagine we call off the championships in Belarus now. Would this change anything in the country? Certainly not,” he said.

On Monday, opposition leaders in Belarus called for the country to be stripped of hosting the event. There was also criticism of Fasel’s visit to Minsk by some Swiss parliamentarians.

Lukashenko launched a violent crackdown against protests following an election last August that opponents say was rigged. He denies fraud and has remained in power with help from ally Russia while Western countries imposed sanctions.

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