The world is outraged by the negotiations between Fasel and Lukashenko; Lithuania plans to completely block electricity from the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant; propagandists are awarded medals while dozens of independent journalists have been arrested on administrative and criminal charges for doing their job
11 January 2021 | BYHelp-Mediagroup
Strong hugs – meeting between the IIHF head, Rene Fasel, and Lukashenko
On 11 January, Rene Fasel met with Alexander Lukashenko. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President and Lukashenko greeted each other with warm hugs, causing a wave of outrage all over the world. Dmitry Baskov, who is currently under investigation by the IIHF in connection with his alleged involvement in the death of Raman Bandarenka, was also present at the meeting.
At the official meeting, the issues related to the hosting of the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk were discussed. Fasel said that the circumstances in Belarus had changed since the last summer and constructive solutions had to be found. “As part of a thorough assessment of Minsk’s ability to host the World Cup, we are engaged in discussions with various groups and are grateful for the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Belarusian government and the Organizing Committee to hear about their contribution to ensuring a balanced approach. The process has begun this morning and will continue as new meetings in Minsk and discussions in the IIHF Council are going to be held,” commented Fasel. Despite the plea from the world community to take the championship away from Minsk, the likely boycott of the competition by many teams, the situation with the coronavirus as well as a deep political crisis in Belarus, Fasel is trying to preserve the possibility of holding the championship in Belarus.
At the same time, Alexander Lukashenko stated that Belarus was ready to host the championship at any time. “If the International Ice Hockey Federation is able to resist the unfair pressure, then we will hold the World Championship. If Latvia refuses, we will hold the World Championship in Belarus, and it will be the best World Championship in history. If the International Ice Hockey Federation is not able to withstand the pressure of certain political circles of certain countries, then there will be no World Championship in Belarus.” He also emphasized: “Our protesters and other disagreeing groups of people do not storm government offices and Capitols. We have a completely normal situation in terms of the development of democratic processes. And this is the main reason for the dissatisfaction of some European politicians with Belarus.” According to the statistics of the Viasna Human Rights Center, from 9 August till 31 December 2020, about 33,000 people have been detained and arrested in Belarus; 178 political prisoners have been reported, more than 380 people have been tortured and beaten, and 5 people have been killed.
Fasel must leave – here’s how the world reacted to the visit of the IIHF president to Minsk
The reaction to the arrival and extreme friendliness of Fasel in Minsk caused a wave of outrage in the world.
Canadian diplomat Chris Alexander did not hide his emotions when he decided to describe Rene Fasel’s visit to Minsk.
“An idiotic and disgusting hug with a dictator is a challenge to our core values, democratic legitimacy, and hockey in general. The IIHF should fire Fasel before the organization suffers serious reputational losses,” says Chris Alexander.
Swedish ice hockey journalist Philip Saxen is sure that after the visit of the IIHF President to Minsk and his hugs with Lukashenko, an adequate reaction should follow. “This is just disgusting! Disgusting and unacceptable. Rene Fasel is absolutely unsuitable for the leadership of hockey (or anything at all for that matter) and must immediately resign. Hockey has once again demonstrated a lack of values, respect and compassion,” TUT.BY quotes Saxen’s words.
The Swiss periodical Watson noted that while Swiss citizen Natallia Hersche was in prison for participating in a peaceful rally in Belarus, Fasel, a Swiss citizen himself, was happily hugging the dictator.
The head of the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation, Harri Nummela, wrote that no hockey matches could and should be held in Belarus, and a boycott of the championship is possible from Finland and other northern countries (Sweden, Norway and Denmark).
The leader of the Belarusian opposition, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, expressed her opinion about the meeting of Fasel with Lukashenko. She believes that sports events of such kind cannot take place in a country where political prisoners are being held in prison cells a few kilometers from the ice arenas and she calls on all national hockey federations to boycott the Championship if it is held in Minsk. In her opinion, Fasel’s visit to Minsk could harm the reputation of the IIHF.
The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF) is outraged by the meeting between Lukashenko and Fasel. The BSSF calls on the IIHF leadership to respect the Belarusian people and to announce in the near future that it is going to be impossible to host the World Cup in Belarus due to the gross violation of human rights by the Lukashenko regime.
Politicians, diplomats and journalists from most European countries had a pronounced negative reaction to the warm meeting between Lukashenko and Fasel. Their embrace caused special indignation.
In addition, Rene Fasel was photographed with the head of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation, Dmitry Baskov, who was sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee and was suspended from all competitions for discrediting hockey as a sport.
Rene Fasel has been the permanent head of the IIHF since 1994, for over 26 years. Lukashenko was also elected the president of Belarus in 1994.
Lithuania is preparing to put a complete stop on receiving electricity from the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant
Lithuania is the only EU country through which Belarus can deliver energy directly to the common European market. Another option is to supply energy via Russia to Latvia. On 3 November 2020, after the launch of the ANPP, Lithuania stopped trading electricity with Belarus. At the same time, on 5 November, Latvia began trading electricity with Russia through the Riga Stock Exchange, which means that Belarusian electricity continues to flow into Lithuanian power grids. This is a violation of the “anti-Astravets” law adopted in Lithuania. The new Minister of Energy of Lithuania, Dainius Kreivys, said that in the near future, Lithuania is going to prepare a plan for a complete stop of electricity flow from the Nuclear Power Plant in Astravets. Since 1 January, Lithuania has been chairing the Baltic Council of Ministers, so Kreivys hopes that the issue of boycotting the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant will be one of the central issues on its agenda.
“The general director of Belaruskali is deceiving his partners,” the strike committee of the enterprise sent a letter to the Norwegian company, Yara. Tsikhanouskaya showed her support for the workers on strike
The appeal sent by the Belaruskali strike committee to the head of Norwegian company Yara, Svein Tore Holsether, states that the management of the plant has violated its agreement with Yara on the issue of protecting the rights of the workers who have opposed the violence in the country and gone on strike. At least 55 employees have been fired for striking and revealing their position. “There is systematic pressure on workers who are in an independent trade union. Employees who wish to leave the state pro-government trade union are not able to do it because the management refuses to sign the workers’ applications. We are talking about hundreds of people!” noted the letter. The labor protection rules are being systematically violated and the Covid-19 preventive measures are not followed. Due to a lack of staff, the infected people are denied sick leaves and forced to work next to the healthy people. The strike committee calls on the Yara leadership to demand that Belaruskali immediately fulfills its promises and unconditionally observes all the rights and freedoms of workers.
Holsether and other representatives of Yara have repeatedly stated that they share the position of the Norwegian government on supporting democratic Belarus and human rights and have visited Belarus twice in order to assess the situation and hold talks with the leadership of Belaruskali.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya showed her support for the striking workers and sent a letter to Mr. Holsether as well. She believes that Yara should suspend or revise the contract with its Belarusian partner. Tsikhanouskaya also asks to create a fund to help the strikers. At the moment, more than 130 workers of Belaruskali are participating in the strike.
Lukashenko awards medals to pro-government journalists while independent journalists are in prison
On 11 January, Alexander Lukashenko awarded state propagandists with medals “For Courage”, “For Labor Merits”, and the medal of Francysk Skaryna.
Some received personal thanks from Lukashenko.
For example, the young and active presenter of the state TV, Ryhor Azaronak, received a medal “For Courage”. This award is usually given for personal courage and the courage shown in a combat situation while defending the Motherland, protecting the constitutional rights of its citizens, rescuing people who are drowning, during natural disasters and other life-threatening situations.
In social networks, they joke that one really needs to have “courage” to continue spewing nonsense from the TV screen when millions of Belarusians hate you. It is also believed that the list of awardees is a ready-made sanction list of pro-government journalists.
At the same time, dozens of Belarusian journalists are in custody. Some of them face long-term prison sentences for crimes they did not commit.
For more information on the events of 11 January 2021, please visit Infocenter Free Belarus 2020: