Latvia blacklists Belarus ice hockey federation chief

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Next year's planned International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships -- due to be co-hosted by Latvia and Belarus -- were placed in further doubt November 16 with the blacklisting of Belarus' ice hockey federation head by Latvia.

Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs posted a picture on Twitter of his decision to add Belarus Ice Hockey Federation chairman Dmitriy Baskov to Latvia's entry blacklist, along with Belarusian kickboxer Dmitry Shakuta.

"Based on Section 61, Paragraph 2 of the Immigration Law, I have made a decision regarding the inclusion of two Belarusian citizens in the list of persons undesirable to the Republic of Latvia, establishing a ban on entering Latvia for an indefinite period of time. To quote a classic: "We don't need hockey like that!"" said the Foreign Minister.

"Together with Lithuania and Estonia, we will soon expand the "blacklists" to include those who continue to violently suppress peaceful protests in Belarus," he added.

The move would seem to signal the end of any realistic prospects of the championships progressing as originally planned. The brutal crackdown on opposition in Belarus has led to calls for Latvia to sever ties with the event, though the World Ice Hockey Federation seems keen for it to proceed despite the increasingly brutal violence of the co-hosts and the uncertain epidemiological situation. 

As recently as November 11, Baskov had been talking about selling tickets to the jointly-hosted tournament before the end of this year, according to the Belta news agency.

One day later, talks were taking place between the IIHF and Latvian officials about the future of the tournament.

"We are not yet under pressure to make immediate decisions regarding the tournament, and we must keep analyzing the situation in both countries as it evolves," said IIHF President René Fasel who continues to argue that sport and politics should not be mixed despite the appalling scenes being recorded daily in Minsk.

"The IIHF President stressed that the organization operates outside politics and is trying to do everything possible to make the World Championships take place in the two countries," said an IIHF release. The organization has a working group looking into the future of the tournament which officially at least is scheduled to go ahead as planned.

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