Latvian officials REMOVE Belarusian flag from display at World Ice Hockey Championships amid row of ‘hijackings’ – RT Sport News
The Belarusian flag was publicly removed from a display representing the nations at the World Ice Hockey Championships in Latvia, in protest against the alleged “state-sponsored hijacking” by authorities in Minsk.
Riga Mayor Martins Stakis and Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics were pictured replacing the Belarusian flag with one representing the country’s opposition movement, at an exhibition dedicated to the 16 teams currently in action at the IIHF World Championships held in the city.
“Among the flags of the hockey championship, we hoist the flag of Free Belarus! Riga Mayor Stakis wrote in a Twitter post, showing him proudly sporting the red and white colors associated with opposition protests in Belarus.
“This flag was given to me by political refugees from Belarus. A flag symbolizing a regime engaged in state terrorism has no place in Riga, so we have removed it!
Foreign Minister Rinkevics added a similar post to his Twitter page, with the message “Free Pratasevich” – in reference to opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, whose fate sparked an international scandal.
Protasevich, 26, was arrested in Minsk on Sunday after the Ryanair flight on which he was traveling between Greece and Vilnius in Lithuania was hijacked while in Belarusian airspace following a warning to the bomb.
Protasevic is the former editor-in-chief of Belarusian opposition channel Telegram Nexta and is currently an employee of Belamova, a media outlet founded by Igor Losik, a consultant for the US state media RFE / RL.
Both are on the Belarusian list of extremist organizations.
Belarus is accused of fabricating the bomb threat to provide an opportunity to detain Protasevich, although it has rejected the allegations because “Unfounded accusations”.
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The scandal increases international pressure on longtime President Alexander Lukashenko, who is accused by the West and the opposition in his own country of rigging last year’s elections that allowed him to retain leadership.
Belarus was originally scheduled to co-host this year’s IIHF World Championships with Latvia, only to be stripped of those rights in January amid threats from its sponsors to step down.
In announcing its decision that the tournament will be held only in Latvia, the IIHF cited “Safety and security issues” as being behind the step.
Elsewhere, President Lukashenko, 66, has already been banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from attending this year’s Games in Tokyo.
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