International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President Rene Fasel has repeated his claim it is too early to decide on the hosting of the 2021 Men’s World Championships despite growing political tension between co-hosts Latvia and Belarus.
Latvia warned the IIHF it would consider withdrawing unless the governing body allowed the country to jointly stage the tournament with a nation other than Belarus.
Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš claimed he could not see how Latvia could co-host the event with Belarus in the current climate, following widespread protests and violence in the country after Alexander Lukashenko's controversial re-election as President.
Protests in Belarus have continued since the disputed August 9 election, where Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994, supposedly won with 80 per cent of the vote.
The European Union is among those to have condemned the election, stating it was "neither free nor fair."
Belarus has been described as "Europe's last dictatorship" because of Lukashenko's lengthy spell in power.
Latvia yesterday joined Estonia and Lithuania in sanctioning 30 officials in Belarus, including Lukashenko, over having a "central role in falsifying election results in Belarus and using violence against peaceful protesters."
Dmitry Baskov, the acting President of the Ice Hockey Federation of Belarus, has suggested in response the country could host the World Championships without Latvia.
IIHF President Fasel has said that it remains too early to make a decision about the World Championships, including over a possible postponement, despite the declining diplomatic relations.
"We have our own mission, we are sports and are not engaged in politics," Fasel told the Russian state news agency TASS.
"Sport unites people, in 2014 a very good World Championship was held in Minsk.
"We are monitoring the situation, it’s too early to draw any conclusions."
Belarus is currently scheduled to stage matches at the World Championships at the Minsk Arena, with Latvia planning to use Arena Riga.
Each city will host one group and two quarter-final games, with both semi-finals and the medal games due to be played in Minsk.
The World Championships is currently scheduled to take place from May 21 to June 6.
The IIHF Council is expected to meet in mid-September to discuss the situation.
IIHF Council member and Russian Ice Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretyak has also suggested the governing body are considering holding this year’s World Junior Championships without fans.
Edmonton and Red Deer in Canada are due to host the event from December 26 to January 5.
"We want to learn from the experience of the National Hockey League," Tretyak told TASS.
"It's a very expensive pleasure, but IIHF said it will do everything to make the competition take place.
"While everyone is preparing, at the very least, there may be an option to hold the tournament without spectators, as the NHL is doing now, while no one can say specifically."