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Swiss watchmaker shuns Belarus as ice hockey host

The Swiss watchmaker has been the official timekeeper of ice hockey world championships for more than 20 years. Ap

Swiss watchmaker Tissot has joined calls for the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to pull the planned world championships from Belarus over a crackdown on opposition groups.

This content was published on January 18, 2021 - 17:19
swissinfo.ch/ug

The announcement came shortly before the Swiss-based IIHF decided to withdraw the tournament from Belarus. The country was to co-host the world championships together with neighbouring Latvia in May and June. 

“Human rights are fundamental values which Tissot represents,” a company spokeswoman told the Swiss news agency, Keystone-SDA, on Monday.

She said the Swiss watchmaker expressed its concern to the IIHF ahead of planned meeting of the federation. Tissot, a member of the Swatch watchmaking group, has been a partner of the federation for the past 25 years.

The federation's executive bodyExternal link said the decision was "unavoidable due to safety and security issues that are beyond the IIHF's control.

Its president, Switzerland's René Fasel, said the move was regrettable since a due diligence process had tried to promote the championship as a tool for political reconciliation in Belarus.

He had come under increasing pressure to act amid a controversial meeting between him and the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, in Minsk last week. 

Lukashenko's authoritarian regime launched a violent crackdown against protests following an election last August that opponents say was rigged. He denies fraud and has remained in power with help from ally Russia while Western countries have imposed sanctions.

Several other sponsors, including the Czech carmaker, Skoda, and the German cosmetics company Nivea Men, had threatened to withdraw if the event is not cancelled.

The Latvian government announced it is not willing to co-host the tournament with Belarus, while Denmark’s national ice hockey team has said it will not travel to Minsk.

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