Roman Golovchenko has claimed boycott threats are "untenable" ©BelTA/Government of Belarus

Belarus' Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko has claimed calls to boycott the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship in Minsk are "untenable" and an attempt at blackmail.

Belarus is currently scheduled to co-host next year's men's World Championship with Latvia.

The Latvian Government has urged the IIHF to replace Belarus as co-host, however, amid unrest in the country following the controversial re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko in August.

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus 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".

Lukashenko’s response has been criticised and his Government has been accused of human rights violations amid a crackdown on protests.

The European Council last week sanctioned Lukashenko and his son Viktor following  the "violent repression and intimidation of peaceful demonstrators, opposition members and journalists".

A total of 59 officials are currently subject to restrictive measures from the European Council.

Latvia was among the countries to have already introduced sanctions on officials in Belarus, with the country's Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins repeatedly saying they will not host the World Championship with its neighbour. 

Golovchenko has insisted the event will continue in Belarus, however, and has repeated his claim that the event could be held entirely in the country should Latvia refuse to co-host.

Belarus Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko held a meeting with members of the Organising Committee ©BelTA/Government of Belarus
Belarus Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko held a meeting with members of the Organising Committee ©BelTA/Government of Belarus

"We are ready to host the championship," Golovchenko said, according to the Belarus Prime Minister's press office.

"The safety of fans and athletes will be ensured.

"Therefore, calls for a boycott, which are sometimes heard, are untenable.

"The Ministry of Sports and Tourism declares its readiness for such a format.

"Obviously, this will require additional funding and the mobilisation of additional resources.

"I know that the dialogue is taking place in a constructive manner, as with all other federations.

"The IIHF has repeatedly stated that there is no transfer or cancellation of the championship for political reasons.

"In general, Belarus is preparing in accordance with the plan.

"I would like to draw your attention to the fact that attempts to discredit Belarus as the organiser of the event continue.

"Today, certain forces are trying to use the holding of the championship in Belarus as an instrument of blackmail and pressure."

The IIHF will review a report by its Expert Group on preparations for the World Championship on Monday (November 16).

The Expert Group was commissioned to produce a report by the IIHF Council in September.

The group was asked to "work out a clear picture of the situation with the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship".

IIHF general secretary Horst Lichtner last month said the World Championship will not be held in Belarus if there is "chaos and revolution" in the country.

This year's World Championship in Switzerland was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 16-team competition is currently scheduled to run from May 21 to June 6 next year.

Belarus is scheduled to stage matches in 2021 at Minsk Arena with Latvia planning to use Arena Riga.

Both semi-finals and the medal matches are due to be held in Minsk, which was the sole host of the 2014 Men's World Championship.

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation has alleged that many athletes have been "tortured, beaten and arrested" for speaking out and demonstrating against Lukashenko, who heads the Belarus National Olympic Committee.

It has led to calls for the International Olympic Committee to sanction the country, with an investigation underway.