President of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Rene Fasel has arrived in Minsk and is currently holding a meeting with Alexander Lukashenko. The negotiations are taking place in the Palace of Independence, the president.gov.by reports.
The meeting is also attended by General Secretary of the IIHF Horst Lichtner, Chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation Dmitry Baskov and First Vice President of the NOC Viktor Lukashenko.
“You and I had all sorts of illnesses [meaning coronavirus – Ed.] so we can greet each other any way we want,” said Lukashenko to Fasel, after which the two hugged [Fasel has recently recovered from coronavirus, which is why he postponed his visit to Belarus in December – Ed.]. Looks like we have fully recovered and things will be easier for us in the future. I believe that the best vaccine against coronavirus is the disease itself since a person develops immunity afterwards.”
“I want to assure you as the IIHF president and as a friend of Belarus that there will be no problems with Belarus: neither in terms of coronavirus nor in terms of political security or physical safety of people who live here or people who will come as guests. Our protesters and other dissatisfied people do not storm government offices and capitols in Belarus. We have a perfectly normal situation in the development of democratic processes. And, Rene, this is the main reason why some politicians in Europe are dissatisfied with Belarus.
I believe there is no need for me to convince you that everything is fine in Belarus. You yourself are an experienced person, a politician, you understand what is happening. They want to accuse me of defending my country and people, but this is why the people elected me. I have an obligation to ensure public, internal and external security of people and the state. Maybe some in the West do not like my actions in this regard, but this is their problem,” he said.
On holding IIHF Championship in Minsk
“Answering the main question about how I react to the recent developments around the IIHF World Championship in Belarus, I will say frankly: I am totally fine with that. If the International Ice Hockey Federation will be able to resist unfair pressure, then we will host the championship. If Latvia refuses [to co-host – Ed.], then we will hold the IIHF World Championship in Belarus and it will be the best world championship in history. I think you know this for sure. If the International Ice Hockey Federation cannot cope with the pressure of some political circles of individual countries, then there will be no World Championship in Belarus. It all depends on you now.
We are aware that if it were not for the position, first of all, of the executive committee of the Ice Hockey Federation, if not for your personal position, we would never have won this world championship. Therefore, do what is best for hockey. The way it will be best for your friends and you personally. We will not hold a grudge. I agree with your recent statements: sport should unite the peoples, not divide them, and sports and politics should not mix, as much as it is possible. We will act in this vein,” stressed Lukashenko.
Recall that the 2021 World Championship is to be held in Minsk and Riga from 21 May to 6 June. Earlier, Fasel said that the IIHF has no intention to transfer the Belarusian co-hosting of the championship to another country. At the same time, Latvia refuses to co-host the championship together with Belarus. The vice-president of IIHF Kalervo Kummola is also against this.
At the end of November, IIHF heard the report of the expert committee. The federation is concerned about two points:
1. Safety of participants and fans.
2. Skepticism about official reports on the number of registered coronavirus cases since September 2020 and the extent of government measures taken to fight the pandemic.