Ice hockey-Russia, Belarus ban not beneficial for world hockey - Russian governing body

  • Hockey
  • Thursday, 23 Mar 2023

FILE PHOTO: 2022 Beijing Olympics - Ice Hockey - Russian Olympic Committee Men's Training - National Indoor Stadium, Beijing, China - February 6, 2022. Russia athletes wearing protective face masks arrive for training. REUTERS/David W Cerny

(Reuters) - Russia's exclusion from the world championships for safety reasons "is neither constructive, nor beneficial", the country's ice hockey federation said after the sport's governing body barred Russia and Belarus from international competition in the 2023-2024 season.

Last year, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) suspended all national teams and clubs from the two countries from taking part in international events in every age category following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The IIHF later moved the 2023 world championships out of St Petersburg.

On Wednesday, the IIHF said "it is not yet safe to reincorporate" the teams into international competitions, citing risks to the safety of players, officials and fans as the reason behind the decision.

Russia and the former Soviet Union have won a combined 27 world championship titles, while Belarus managed a best-ever finish of sixth in 2006.

"The format of such tournaments as the world championships implies competition between the strongest athletes of the planet, without national or ethnic discrimination," the Russian Ice Hockey Federation said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Russia is one of the world's leading ice hockey countries, it is among the leaders in terms of victories and medals of the most prestigious international tournaments.

"The suspension of the Russian national team from world championships and other competitions under the contrived pretext of 'security of participants' is a decision that is neither constructive, nor beneficial for world hockey."

The federation added that it would continue to make "all possible efforts" to return Russia's national teams to international competition.

This year's world championships are scheduled for May 12-28 in the southern Finnish city of Tampere and Latvian capital Riga.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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