IIHF President Fasel On Visit To Minsk: “I Didn’t Come There To Drink Vodka With Lukashenko”

International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President Rene Fasel admitted in an interview with Sportschau that Belarus has almost no chance of hosting the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship.

Unfortunately, BelarusFeed team doesn’t have interpreters speaking German, so there may be some inaccuracies since the text was translated via Google Translate and edited afterwards.

Commenting on his photos with Alexander Lukashenko and Dmitry Baskov, Fasel said: “The pictures were completely misinterpreted. The discussion was very different. I wasn’t there to have a glass of vodka with Lukashenko. We were there to address the problems. Our goal was to find a solution with President Lukashenko.”

IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner: “We had assurances that these photos are for internal use only. This cameraman and the photographer left the room after five minutes. We held the conversation behind closed doors. We were under tremendous pressure. We knew we were having a conversation that doesn’t happen that often.”

Besides, Rene Fasel described the circumstances in which the photos with Chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation Dmitry Baskov m who is currently under IIHF investigation in connection with the death of Roman Bondarenko, were taken.

“When I’m in Russia or Belarus, an incredible number of selfies are taken with me. I’m a person who values ​​people, especially in the ice hockey world. I know who Mr. Baskow is, I’ve known him for many years. He came to me and said, René, let’s take a selfie, please, and we did. I didn’t think Baskov would publish this on any platform. And then you realize that you have been manipulated.”

sportschau.de: What exactly did you discuss with Mr. Lukashenko? What were your points that you made there?

Lichtner: “We didn’t make any demands, we suggested solutions and they were accepted – almost all of them. We talked about organizational details. After all, you are going to a country where hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets. We had to make sure that the safety regulations were followed, that the ice hockey hall will not be besieged.

The players, fans and media representatives need to be safe. Then there is one more thing, the approach to COVID-19 in Belarus is different than we have here. But we were assured that we would use international standards at the World Championship. And, unusually, we also touched on political issues. We have achieved a lot in terms of content.”

sportschau.de: What exactly did you mention politically, Mr. Fasel?

Fasel: “We spoke to the opposition beforehand. They told us that there were 165 political prisoners. We have addressed that. And of course, President Lukashenko said that they were not political prisoners, that the people were in jail for breaking the law. Many things happened during these demonstrations. Not only did the police attack people, but there was also wrongdoing on the other side.

He said: ‘René, I am responsible for security in this country. This is my job and I will continue to do so. Then of course we touched on the elections and the constitutional amendments.’ But once again, how can an international ice hockey association make political demands on President Lukashenko? That is not our job either. I can tell you we argued. It was constructive, as constructive as you can talk to him.”

sportschau.de: That means, had the pictures not been there, would the trip have been successful from your point of view?

Lichtner: “It would have been about content. But right now it’s all about images and emotions. And we have to correct that.”

Fasel: “We were there to do something good. What should we regret? It is interpreted that we wanted to do something bad. We could have written a letter. But we went there and said: Alexander, we have a problem. We stand by what we do: a sports association that is tasked with organizing the World Championship in Belarus.”

sportschau.de: Do you still think the World Championship in Belarus is possible?

Fasel: It will be very difficult to do that. One would need a miracle to make this happen, I would say. We will certainly not make such an important decision based on emotion. I still need a little rest. Horst still has to do some analysis work for a potential plan B.

sportschau.de: What could a plan B look like?

Lichtner: “We can confirm that we have offers and that we are in talks. It is logical to tackle that now too. We are not naive. We actually started this in October last year, now it is time to put it into concrete form. It’ll take a few days, not months. We are determined to host the World Championship.”