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Lukashenko's son replaces father at helm of Belarusian Olympic Committee after ban

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Belarus on Friday appointed Viktor Lukashenko, son of President Alexander Lukashenko, to replace his father at the helm of their country’s National Olympic Committee after both were banned from attending the Olympic Games.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting with members of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) in Minsk, Belarus February 26, 2021. Maxim Guchek/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS

Alexander Lukashenko, who had served as the head of the Belarusian Olympic Committee since 1997, claimed his sixth presidential term in August last year in a vote the opposition says was rigged and marred with violations.

The 66-year-old, who denies electoral fraud, has been accused of orchestrating a massive crackdown on protesters who took to the streets in the wake of last year’s contested election, as well as targeting elite athletes who openly backed the opposition.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said in December last year the leadership of the Belarusian Olympic Committee had “not appropriately protected the Belarusian athletes from political discrimination.”

It banned Lukashenko and his son Viktor, first vice president of the national Olympic body at the time, from attending the Games and excluded them from all other IOC activities.

“The IOC will wait for the official report about the election results and will evaluate them in due course,” the IOC told Reuters in response to a request for comment on Friday about Viktor Lukashenko’s appointment.

Speaking at a meeting of Belarus’ Olympic body, Alexander Lukashenko said he had not planned to remain at the committee’s helm for another term and suggested his son Viktor, who also serves as his aide on national security, take over.

“I still won’t be very far away for issues related to sport,” Belta news agency quoted Alexander Lukashenko as saying.

Alexander Lukashenko is an avid sports fan, and regularly plays ice hockey with senior Belarus officials and occasionally with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Belarus last month was stripped of the right to co-host this year’s ice hockey world championship due to safety concerns over political unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic there.

Writing by by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by William Maclean and Toby Davis