Updated at 13:48,15-08-2017

Russo-Belarusian political conflict manifests itself in amateur sport

belarusinfocus.info

On May 6th, the Sports and Disciplinary Commission of the 2nd All-Russian Amateur Ice Hockey Festival, held in Sochi, started checks on Belarusian Presidents team regarding its compliance with the Festivals regulations. On May 7th, Presidents team was forfeited, and the number of players disqualified.

Belarusian-Russian political conflict, unfolding during negotiations on defense cooperation, manifested itself amateur sport. The scandalous proceedings in respect of the Belarusian Presidents hockey team at the tournament in Sochi have eventually thwarted an informal meeting between Presidents Lukashenko and Putin. Apparently, these proceedings demonstrate the Kremlins intransigent negotiating position.

For reference, a hockey team, led by a big hockey fan Alexander Lukashenko, received the invitation to take part in the Festival from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during his visit to Minsk on April 23rd. On the same day, Shoigu made a statement about the alleged Russian regiment deployment in Belarus in the near future. Further developments demonstrated that Belarus decided to "slow down" with such defense agreements and perhaps, put forward additional requirements to Russia.

Potentially, these requirements could be discussed at the end of the Hockey Festival in Sochi, where Lukashenko intended to come to participate in the final game, and where Russian President Putin was at that time. Bearing these circumstances in mind, it is possible that the Festivals Disciplinary Committees decision had political implications associated with an unexpected for Russia u-turn in the Belarusian-Russian talks on defense matters.

The peculiarity of the situation is that the Presidents team has been admitted to the "WORLD CUP 40 +" League and won 4 games and advanced to the finals.

The teams technical defeat in the semifinals was made post-factum - under the pretext of non-compliance with the Festivals qualification requirements by a number of players (in fact, both Lukashenkos sons, team members, are also under 40 years old). Lukashenko decided not to take part in a game for the third place and canceled his visit to Sochi.

Meanwhile, President Putin took part in the Tournaments finals and in the gala performance on May 10th. If Lukashenkos team were to take place in the finals, his victory could be very likely, given the professional past qualifications of many his team players. Thus, the fact of the controversial exclusion of Lukashenko from the hockey finals seems to be a clear demonstration of the Kremlins intransigent negotiating position in the defense and economic fields.