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Finland calls attention to human rights ahead of hockey games in Belarus

The world ice hockey championships are due to take place in Minsk in 2021.

Annika Saarikko (kesk.).
Annika Saarikko (Cen), Minister of Science and Culture. Image: Arash Matin / Yle

Finland wants EU ministers to sign a human rights declaration it has spearheaded ahead of next spring’s world ice hockey championships in Belarus.

"The declaration highlights the need for EU states to respect human rights treaties and non-discrimination and that these values should be promoted in all sectors of society," Finland’s minister in charge of sports, Annika Saarikko, told Finnish news agency STT.

EU sports ministers will consider the statement on 1 December.

Saarikko, who's Minister of Science and Culture, said she has supported the Finnish Ice Hockey Association’s critical view on games in Belarus, but noted that EU states have different views on the issue.

International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) vice president Kalervo Kummola has made many critical statements regarding the upcoming games in Belarus, most recently taking to Twitter on Saturday to say, "I don’t think that games should be held in Minsk and I don’t think it will happen either."

Saarikko has not taken a stand on whether Finland should sit out the championships if the IIHF allows them go ahead in Belarus.

"We’re taking it one step at a time. The main priority now is getting the international community on the same page as Finland," she said.

The majority of EU states signed a similar declaration in 2013 ahead of Belarus hosting the 2014 hockey world championships.

Anti-government protesters in Belarus have been demonstrating against six-time president Alexander Lukashenko since August when he claimed victory in elections marred by widespread voter fraud.

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