Belarus was stripped on Thursday of cycling’s European Championships, in response to the forced grounding of a passenger jet and arrest of a leading opposition figure.
The track cycling event was due to be held in Minsk in June but was canceled after Sunday’s dramatic interception of a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius — and the detainment of anti-government journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.
On Thursday, Enrico Della Casa, president of the European Cycling Union, said: “We have recently been monitoring the situation with the Belarus Cycling Federation which has now developed into an international debate and today during the Management Board meeting, we have decided to cancel the event in Minsk.”
“We are already working on finding an alternative solution to enable the riders from our 50 national federations to compete in this season’s continental event,” he added.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has violently cracked down on protesters, who have reported being tortured by security forces, in the aftermath of his widely disputed election victory in August 2020.
Broader sanctions were also slapped on Belarus at a European Council summit on Monday, including economic measures against individuals and entities, and a plan to ban Belarusian aircraft from flying in EU airspace or accessing EU airports.
In January, the men’s world ice hockey championship was also removed from Belarus over “safety and security” concerns.