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23.04.2014

Andrei Sannikov: Championship in Minsk - the most shameful competition in the history of ice hockey  ? 34

15:06, — Politics
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Andrei Sannikov: Championship in Minsk - the most shameful competition in the history of ice hockey

Leader of European Belarus has sent the open letter to the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Andrei Sannikov recalled Rene Fasel that the international competitions of the highest rank, which are held in dictatorial countries, do not serve the sport. Dictators needs it to amuse their self-esteem and to create the illusion of international recognition of the dictatorship.

Here is the text of the letter, which was also sent to charter97.org:

Open Letter of the Leader of the Civic campaign European Belarus Andrei Sannikov to the President of the International Ice Hockey Federation Rene Fasel, April 23, 2014

Dear Mr. Fasel,

I am writing to you in connection with the World Ice Hockey Championship to be held this year in Belarus. You are well known in Belarus since you have been indefatigably lobbying namely Minsk as a venue of the championship. Many even think that it is only because of your titanic efforts that the world championship will be held in the most inappropriate place the capital of the last dictatorship in Europe.

I really want to believe that you were lobbying such a decision disinterestedly, and that later no facts of corruption emerge, that sometimes accompany such strange decisions. And I do not mean here the medal that you received from Lukashenko in 2008. You were actively defending the venue of the 2014 World Championship, constantly repeating that sports cannot and should not be used as a political tool. But it is a lie and I think you know that quite well. In democratic countries such as your native Switzerland it is indeed inadmissible. Under dictatorship, sports is all about politics.Especially the favourite sport of the dictator.

You must be well aware what happened after international officials awarded Hitler with the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and Putin with the Sochi Olympics in 2014. International competition of the highest status that are held in dictatorial regimes do not serve sports. They are for dictators, only to massage their egos or to create the illusion of international recognition of the dictatorship.

I am not sure that you know the real situation in my country. I do not mean the political situation. I mean the situation with ice hockey. Hockey as a sport is destroyed in Belarus. Moreover, it is in a humiliating state. It is humiliated with competitions of dubious quality in which the dictator's team participates and enormous money is spent on them. It is humiliated with awards and titles given to members of the dictator's team. The titles that prove professionalism and commitment to hockey are given to officials and businessmen for their commitment to the dictator. Experts are sure that after the 2014 World Championship, hockey in Belarus will find itself in an even more difficult situation. The World Championship will serve not the development of hockey but its further destruction in Belarus. You personally will be guilty of this catastrophe.

Still, I want to remind you of one political and historic fact. It relates to our flag. The white, red and white flag was returned to the independent Belarus in 1991 by the decision of the Belarusian parliament. Our flag is deeply rooted in our history and culture. In 1995 Lukashenko unlawfully changed it for his own flag that is connected only with the Soviet totalitarian past of Belarus. You are well aware how important a national flag is for sportsmen and their fans at every international competition. But you might have forgotten that we started to support sportsmen of the independent Belarus under this white red and white flag. We supported them with this flag from our seats and proudly greeted it when it was raised on a mast.For the first time during the Olympics, it was this flag that was hoisted in honor of independent Belarus. It happened in 1994 in Lillehammer.

This flag is dear for Belarusians and ice hockey fans will try to use it to support their team at the 2014 World Championship in Minsk. Why do I say try? Because for this flag today, people are persecuted and thrown in prison. Recently police burst into a private apartment in Minsk of a pensioner and a disabled person, and beat him only because he put this flag on his balcony. Later, he was even tried for this.

Ice hockey fans will not be allowed to use their national flag because of the political views of the dictator and you try to claim that sport cannot be used as a political tool. Fans with our flag will be beaten, arrested, and jailed. Some of them will be thrown in jail even before the championship. Don't you feel any guilt that innocent people will suffer because of you?

You didn't pay attention to the appeals of human right defenders, members of parliaments of different European countries, the USA and Canada. You ignored the appeals of the relatives of political prisoners, public figures and politicians who requested that you change the venue of the championship for a different country. As a result, the 2014 World Championship will be held in a country where political prisoners languish in prisons, where the repression will continue on the eve and during the championship. You can see it even now. My colleague Maxim Vinyarski was arrested on April 22 on fabricated charges and sentenced to imprisonment. His life is in danger since he declared a dry hunger strike because of unstoppable pressure on him. On the eve of his arrest he was warned by the police to leave the city for the time of your and Lukashenko's championship.

But who cares about political prisoners? Sports is above politics, right? However, I'm sure you don't want to know that thousands of socially excluded citizens will be placed in special places of restricted freedom, in fact in concentration camps. They are not political, they will be removed from the streets in order not to irritate you and other foreign guests. These plan was publicly announced by the authorities.

Neither the players of national teams taking part in the 2014 World Championship, nor their fans who would want to freely and peacefully support their teams deserve such a humiliating attitude from your federation and you personally. It is they that find themselves in a most uncomfortable situation because of you. Athletes of national teams cannot be held hostages to the whims of international officials and take part in championships held by dictators for dictators and not for athletes and their fans. Fans must not be afraid to support their teams with their national flags.

The 2014 World Championship in Minsk can become the most shameful competition in the history of ice hockey because of you. The police and secret services are mobilised today not to maintain order during the championship but to persecute and harass citizens of Belarus who may demonstrate their discontent with the dictatorship during your championship. The repression against the citizens will continue after the championship. Dictators are malicious and persecution of those who will dare to demonstrate their position as citizens of Belarus during the championship will continue after your departure from Minsk.

A large group of citizens may appear in Belarus who will be repressed due to the 2014 World Championship. In this connection, I strongly recommend you to have a capacity in the International Federation which you head to defend Belarusian citizens who will be repressed because of the championship held in the dictatorship. I will urge human rights organizations in the world to address all demands concerning these political prisoners to you. I hope they will listen to these appeals. You are a resolute person and you know that the decisions entail responsibility. Maybe a necessity to face the consequences of decisions will be a lesson for international sports federations including your own and will make you think twice before taking such shameful decisions.

Andrei Sannikov,

Coordinator of the civic campaign European Belarus

Candidate in 2010 presidential election in Belarus

Prisoner of conscience (2010-2012)


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