WASHINGTON — A senior US senator called Thursday for a boycott of an international ice hockey championship to be held in Minsk in 2014 over alleged rights abuses by “dictator” Alexander Lukashenko.
“We’re suggesting to countries around the world who believe, as we do, in human rights and democratic values they ought to reconsider going to Minsk to have his hockey match,” said Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.
“Dictator Lukashenko just loves hockey,” said Durbin, the chamber’s assistant majority leader. “I think that has a better chance of catching the attention of Lukashenko than all the protests on the floor of the senate.”
The lawmaker said he had yet to receive a reply to a letter sent Monday to International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel to postpone his group’s 2014 championship over concerns about human rights.
Lukashenko — dubbed Europe’s last dictator by Washington — won a fourth term in office in December elections denounced in the West as wholly fraudulent, then unleashed a brutal crackdown on opposition critics.
In January, the European Union and United States slapped a new raft of sanctions, including a travel ban and asset freeze, on Lukashenko and 157 associates.