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Elite Track European Championships in Belarus next month cancelled amid international pressure

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European Track Championships were due to take place in Minsk from June 23-27; Germany and Lithuania withdrew from event following arrest of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich; “We are already working on finding an alternative solution,” says Euro cycling boss

The Elite Track European Championships, set to take place in Minsk from June 23-27, have been cancelled amid international pressure on Belarus.

The European Cycling Union (UEC) made the decision after Germany and Lithuania said they would not send teams to the event following the arrest of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich.

He was apprehended by the country’s authorities after a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was diverted by a Belarusian fighter jet and forced to land in Minsk.

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The arrest of Protasevich – who is critical of Belarus’ authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko – has been condemned internationally, and airlines have been told not to fly in the nation’s airspace.

Following a UEC board meeting on Thursday, the governing body’s president Enrico Della Cassa said: “We have recently been monitoring the situation with the Belarus Cycling Federation which has now developed into an international debate and today during the management board meeting, we have decided to cancel the event in Minsk.

Roman Protasevich being detained by Belarusian authorities in M insk in 2017 Roman Protasevich being detained by Belarusian authorities in Minsk in 2017

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“I would like to thank the Belarus Cycling Federation and its president and management board member Natallia Tsylinskaya, who has worked with great dedication to help prepare the event and for the important initiatives planned to develop the sport of cycling in Belarus with a programme of additional activities during the European Championships.

“We are already working on finding an alternative solution to enable the riders from our 50 national federations to compete in this season’s continental event.”

The decision was welcomed by British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park, who said: “While it’s disappointing to lose another race from an already disrupted calendar, I do commend and support the decision made by the UEC to cancel the European Track Championships scheduled to take place in Belarus.

“We will support the UEC with finding another venue for the European Championships, but we have a responsibility to act in the best interests of the riders and the team as a whole.

“The constantly changing Covid restrictions on an international level have created additional logistical and financial challenges for every national federation, therefore we need to be realistic about what is possible and practical before Tokyo.

“While we work hard to create race opportunities for our riders, our focus needs to be on ensuring the team are excellently prepared for the forthcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

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