ZURICH (AP) — The only team from Belarus in the Europe-wide Champions Hockey League was removed from next season’s competition on Tuesday because of travel restrictions following the country's decision to divert a flight to arrest a passenger in Minsk.
European Union sanctions regarding airspace after authorities in Belarus detained opposition journalist Raman Pratasevich two weeks ago will likely disrupt travel to and from the country for several months.
The former Soviet republic has been in turmoil since August when authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in a disputed presidential election.
“It is a prerequisite for our pan-European competition that teams, fans, officials, sponsors/partners and service providers can travel and stay safely,” the Zurich-based hockey competition organizers said. “Unfortunately, this is currently not granted for travel to and from Belarus.”
Yunost Minsk’s wild-card entry in the 32-team competition starting in August was canceled.
Sporting sanctions in recent months include Belarus being stripped of hosting the men’s hockey world championships and the European championships in track cycling.
Lukashenko, who led the Belarus Olympic committee from the 1990s until this year, was also suspended by the IOC and barred from the Tokyo Games. His son, Viktor, was elected to the Olympic role despite also being suspended by the IOC.