IIHF suspends Russian, Belarusian teams until further notice

3 minute read

A woman skates while holding a Ukrainian flag at an outdoor skating rink during an anti-war protest, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, February 27, 2022. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

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NEW YORK, Feb 28 (Reuters) - The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) on Monday suspended Russian and Belarusian teams from its competitions until further notice and revoked Russia's 2023 World Junior Championship hosting rights.

The announcement comes as sporting bodies around the globe move to bar Russian athletes from competing in international events amid Russia's ongoing military invasion of Ukraine. read more . Belarus has been a key staging area for the invasion.

"We were incredibly shocked to see the images that have come out of Ukraine," IIHF President Luc Tardif said in a statement.

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"I have been in close contact with the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine and we hope for all Ukrainians that this conflict can be resolved in a peaceful way and without the need for further violence."

Both FIFA and UEFA suspended Russian teams from international football. On Monday, the International Olympic Committee's executive board recommended federations to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competition.

USA Hockey backed the IIHF's decision.

"Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine as they defend their country," it said in a statement.

"The actions of (Russian President) Vladimir Putin and the support from Belarusian government officials are beyond reprehensible."

Hockey Canada said it would bar Russia and Belarus from taking part in events in Canada, including those that do not fall under the IIHF’s jurisdiction.

Canada is set to host the world junior championships in August, an event Russia has won three-times in the last 20 years and reached the podium 16-times.

"Hockey Canada strongly condemns the unprovoked attack on Ukraine by Russia and stands in support of the nation of Ukraine," Hockey Canada said in a statement.

"While this is a humanitarian crisis that goes beyond sports, we also stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian hockey family and all those impacted around the world."

The National Hockey League (NHL) suspended ties with its Russian business partners as well on Monday and condemned the invasion in Ukraine, days after Alex Ovechkin, the Russian captain of the Washington Capitals and one of the league's most prolific goal scorers, called for peace. read more

"Effective immediately, we are suspending our relationships with our business partners in Russia," the NHL said in a statement.

"In addition, we are discontinuing any consideration of Russia as a location for any future competitions involving the NHL."

Just a little over a week ago, the Russian Olympic Committee's men's ice hockey team took silver at the Beijing Winter Games. read more

"The IIHF is not a political entity and cannot influence the decisions being taken over the war in Ukraine," said President Tardif.

"We nevertheless have a duty of care to all of our members and participants and must do all we can to ensure that we are able to operate our events in a safe environment for all teams taking part in the IIHF World Championship program."

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation" that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbor's military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.

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Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Pritha Sarkar

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