Updated at 15:34,14-12-2017

International Ice Hockey Federation relaxes ban on white-red-white flags

Dzmitry Ulasaw, BelaPAN

IIHF has lifted its ban on the use of historically national white-red-white flags by Belarusian fans during the ongoing world championship in Sweden and Finland, but warned that waving them will still be not allowed, according to media reports.

On May 5, Swedish security guards used force to prevent Belarusian fans from displaying a white-red-white flag at Stockholm Globe Arena, reportedly at the request of the IIHF.

The move caused an outcry in Sweden, with many journalists and human rights defenders accusing the IIHF of toeing the Belarusian authorities` line.
On Monday, some 30 people, both Belarusians and Swedes, demonstrated in front of Stockholm Globe Arena. They passed out leaflets accusing the IIHF of giving ear to Alyaksandr Lukashenka`s opinion, said Belsat TV news chief Alyaksey Dzikavitski.

Swedish reporters said during the demonstration that the ban on the flag had been lifted, but fans would be allowed only to wrap white-red-white flags around their shoulders.

Meanwhile, Isabel Sommerfeld of Info Belarus told Belsat TV that the Swedish-based NGO supporting democracy in Belarus considered suing the organizers of the championship and the Swedish government for discriminating against people holding white-red-white flags. Russian fans are not banned from displaying Soviet-era red flags during the tournament`s games, Ms. Sommerfeld said.