Czech carmaker threatens to pull sponsorship if Belarus hosts men's hockey worlds
Mass protests swept Belarus after official results gave Lukashenko presidential win
Czech carmaker Skoda has warned that it will withdraw its sponsorship of the ice hockey world championship if Belarus remains as co-host amid calls to move the event following mass protests against authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Skoda, which belongs to Germany's Volkswagen Group, said Saturday on Twitter that it has been "a proud partner" to the annual tournament for 28 years but "we also respect and promote all human rights."
We've been a proud partner to the <a href="https://twitter.com/IIHFHockey?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@IIHFHockey</a> World Championship for 28 years. But we also respect & promote all human rights. Therefore, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SKODA?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SKODA</a> will withdraw from sponsoring the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship if <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Belarus?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Belarus</a> is confirmed to be co-hosting the event. <a href="https://t.co/fC3ZMbY2cG">pic.twitter.com/fC3ZMbY2cG</a>—@skodaautonews
"Therefore, SKODA will withdraw from sponsoring the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship if Belarus is confirmed to be co-hosting the event," the carmaker said.
The worlds are scheduled to be co-hosted by Belarus and Latvia starting in May. Latvia and other countries have urged the International Ice Hockey Federation to find a different co-host because of Belarus' crackdown on opposition groups.
Hugs and smiles today between Belarus president Lukashenko and ice hockey federation's Fasel, long-time Olympic friends, ahead of talks about Belarus staying on as co-host of the men's worlds in May. <a href="https://t.co/4CZ2M4Q98g">https://t.co/4CZ2M4Q98g</a>—@gdunbarap
Mass protests swept Belarus, a former Soviet nation of 9.5 million people, after official results from the presidential election on Aug. 9 gave Lukashenko a landslide victory over his widely popular opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. She and her supporters refused to recognize the result, saying the vote was fraudulent.
Authorities have cracked down hard on the largely peaceful demonstrations.
IIHF president Rene Fasel said he remained committed to holding the worlds in Belarus after meeting Lukashenko earlier this week in Minsk.