WASHINGTON -- Stanislau Shushkevich, the first leader of an independent Belarus, says he supports moving the 2014 ice hockey world championships away from Belarus.
Shushkevich told RFE/RL on March 29 a precedent for the move already exists -- the 1969 championship scheduled in Prague that was moved to Stockholm in response to the 1968 Soviet crackdown on the Prague Spring reform movement.
The Czechoslovak team eventually won the 1969 championship, defeating the Soviet Union.
"Holding the championship in Belarus would not open the country to the world. But our best hockey player among politicians and best politician among hockey players, the boss of Belarus [President Alyaksandr Lukashenka], will certainly lose if this championship is not held here, because he certainly wants to take advantage of this championship for his own purposes," Shushkevich said.
"I would love to have the championship here in Belarus, but unfortunately, with this government, it would play a negative rather than a positive role."
Earlier on March 29, the European Parliament called on the International Ice Hockey Federation to take away Belarus's right to host the 2014 world championship because of human rights violations in the authoritarian-ruled state.
EU lawmakers asked the international federation to punish Belarus if the regime of Lukashenka refuses to release political prisoners.