Just days after it was stripped of the world ice hockey championships, Belarus has lost another international sporting event it was due to host, amid a violent government crackdown on peaceful protests over a disputed presidential election last year.
The UIPM Pentathlon and Laser Run World Championships, which were due to be held in Minsk in June, have been postponed “due to instability” in the country, the International Union of Modern Pentathlon said in a statement on January 22, adding that an announcement regarding an alternative venue would be made in the coming days.
The move comes days after the International Ice Hockey Federation announced on January 18 it was removing Belarus as a cohost of its World Championship later this year following pressure from sponsors, the Belarusian opposition, and many European countries.
Belarus has witnessed nearly daily protests since last August when Alyaksandr Lukashenka, in power since 1994, was declared the winner of a presidential vote that the opposition says was rigged.
The EU, United States, Canada, and other countries refuse to recognize Lukashenka, 66, as the legitimate leader of Belarus and have slapped him and senior Belarusian officials with sanctions in response to the “falsification” of the vote and postelection crackdown.
UIPM President Klaus Schormann said the organization’s executive board voted to move the championships in Minsk “to a future date because of a growing concern that the present instability in the host nation could jeopardize the success of UIPM’s flagship competition.”
Schormann also cited “a particular concern that numerous competing nations would be reluctant to travel to Belarus at this time.”
Crisis In Belarus
Read our coverage as Belarusians take to the streets to demand the resignation of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and call for new elections after official results from the August 9 presidential poll gave Lukashenka a landslide victory.
The announcement by the Monaco-based UIPM follows pressure from the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation (BSSF), whose stated goal is to provide support to the athletes who face “repressions” for taking part in peaceful demonstrations.
In a letter to the UIPM, the BSSF warned that a failure from the worldwide governing body to remove the competition from Belarus would be "a threat to the image and reputation" of the sport.
The UIPM "shall not reward Lukashenka’s violent regime with hosting such major tournaments in a country where citizens are subjected to excessive violence, torture, and discrimination by the authorities and almost 200 political prisoners are being kept in jail," the foundation wrote.