Lithuania latest country to pull out of Belarus track cycling championships

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Sebastian Gollnow/dpa via AP

Lithuania on Wednesday became the latest country to announce it will boycott next month’s European track cycling Championships if the event is maintained in Belarus.

The move is in protest of Sunday’s forced diversion by Belarusian authorities of a flight to arrest journalist Roman Pratasevich and his girlfriend.

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister, said the country’s decision mirrors that of the teams from Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

“[Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko and fair sports hardly fit in the same sentence even less in the same country,” he wrote on Twitter.

He also said that Lithuania had offered to host the event.

The Management Board of the European Cycling Union (UEC) is to meet on Thursday to discuss the situation.

The UEC Elite Track European Championships are scheduled to take place in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, from June 23 to 27.

It is seen as a key event for European teams as it’s the last meet before this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Germany pushed for “an alternative solution” when it announced on Tuesday that its participation in the championships “is not possible after the events of the weekend.”

British Cycling performance director Stephen Park has meanwhile said that “there can surely be no way” the event can be held in Belarus as the European Union has banned its airlines from flying over the country’s airspace.

The Belarusian government says it acted in accordance with international law and diverted the plane following a bomb threat.

But western countries have strongly condemned the flight’s forced diversion with the EU unveiling new sanctions against the regime earlier this week, including a ban for Belarusian airlines from using the bloc’s airspace and airports.

The EU first imposed sanctions against Belarusian individuals and entities in October over the regime’s violent crackdown of the pro-democracy protests which followed the August presidential election ruled fraudulent by Brussels, Washington and London.

The men’s world ice hockey championship — which kicked off on May 21 and will end on June 6 —

Belarus was also scheduled to co-host the men’s world ice hockey championship but the event — which started on May 21 and will end on June 6 — is being held in Latvia “due to safety and security issues.”

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