Visas for Belarus basketball team cancelled as countries ‘complicit with Putin not welcome’

UK bars national team in latest sporting hit for Russian allies

Liam James
Saturday 26 February 2022 23:41
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CCTV appears to show tanks enter Ukraine via Belarus border

The UK has cancelled visas for members of the Belarusian national men's basketball team over Minsk's support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the home secretary said.

Belarus was scheduled to play the Great Britain team in Newcastle on Monday but the match was cancelled in the sporting world's latest show of opposition to Moscow’s insurgence.

Priti Patel said in a tweet: “I have cancelled the visas of the Belarusian Men’s Basketball Team who were due to play in Newcastle tomorrow night.

“The UK will not welcome the national sports teams of those countries who are complicit in Putin’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

The Belarusian government of Alexander Lukashenko has allowed Russian forces to enter Ukraine from its territory.

Moscow had been staging military exercises in neighbouring Belarus and Nato estimated 30,000 Russian troops were within its borders before the invasion.

Mr Lukashenko said Belarusian troops could take part in the operation against Ukraine if needed, and that he will discuss strengthing the country's western flank with Vladimir Putin.

On Friday, Britain summoned the Belarusian ambassador, Maxim Yermalovich, to protest Minsk's complicity in the Russian assault.

Follow live updates on the war in Ukraine here.

The GB-Belarus game was cancelled on Friday night. A statement from the International Basketball Association (Fiba) said: “The decision is based on the evaluation of the current security situation.

“Fiba is closely monitoring the security situation in Europe, as players’ and officials’ safety remain Fiba’s primary concern.”

A game between the Netherlands and Russia was also cancelled. Fiba said both will be rescheduled.

Russia and Belarus are being frozen out of international sporting competitions in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

Satellite shot of helicopters at V D Bolshoy Bokov airfield, Belarus, near the border with Ukraine, on Friday

The International Olympic Committee said sports associations should move or cancel any events planned in either of the countries.

The Champions League final in May was due to be played in St Petersburg but has been moved to Paris. The Russian Grand Prix has been cancelled.

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