Appeals by Russia and Belarus against bans from the world ice hockey championship following the invasion of Ukraine in February have been rejected by the international governing body.
Neither Russia nor its military ally Belarus were allowed play at the men’s ice hockey world championship in May, which was won by host nation Finland.
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The decision to ban both countries from the championship “was not a sanction but was a safety policy”, and “the safety policy was not discriminatory and was proportionate,” the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) disciplinary board ruled on Tuesday.
The IIHF council argued that the decision to ban both countries on February 28 – four days after Russian troops invaded Ukraine – was to ensure the safety of players, fans and other tournament participants.
Russia was also stripped of the right to host next year’s men’s ice hockey world championship, which was due to be played in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s home city of St Petersburg, and a men’s world junior championship.
“The independent board supported our view that it would have been an unacceptable safety risk to either host the [world junior championship] and [world championship)] in Russia or to have the Russian and Belarusian teams currently participating in IIHF competitions,” IIHF President Luc Tardif said of the appeals on Tuesday.
Russia and Belarus could still take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, as numerous other Russian sport organisations have done.
‘Removed from positions of influence’
The ice hockey ruling coincided with dozens of countries issuing a joint statement on Tuesday to reiterate that no international sporting events should take place in Russia or Belarus and that citizens from both countries should be banned from international competitions.
In the statement, 35 nations from the West plus Japan and South Korea also called for Russian and Belarusian sport governing bodies be suspended from international sport federations, and for citizens from both countries to be banned from international sporting organisations.
“Individuals closely aligned to the Russian and Belarusian states, including but not limited to government officials, should be removed from positions of influence on international sport federations, such as boards and organising committees,” said the statement by sport ministers and culture officials released by the US Department of State.
Sporting event organisers should also consider suspending broadcasts into Russia and Belarus, according to the statement.
China, India and states in Latin America and Africa were among notable countries that were not listed as signatories to the statement.
The US and European Union have led a campaign to ostracise Russia in hopes of pressuring the Russian president, who took visible pride in Russia’s hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2018 World Cup.
World football governing authority FIFA and leading tennis tournament Wimbledon among others have banned Russians from competition since the February 24 invasion.
The International Olympic Committee, which had already barred Russian athletes from competing under their flag due to doping, has also recommended a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes.
But two Russians remain on the Olympic committee: Yelena Isinbayeva, an Olympic pole vault medalist close to Putin, and Russia’s tennis chief Shamil Tarpishchev.
The new joint statement called for events that continue to allow Russian and Belarusian participation to make explicit that they do not represent their states, and to ban the use of their national flags.
Belarus has been targeted for its support for the invasion, with Ukraine recently reporting being hit by missiles fired from the territory of its northern neighbour.
Veteran Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko is a close ally of Putin and sought to crush protests that broke out after wide allegations of fraud in his 2020 re-election.