Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is set to meet IIHF counterpart René Fasel next month ©Getty Images

International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President René Fasel is set to inform Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that the country has been stripped of its 2021 World Championship co-hosting rights, according to Swiss media reports.

German-language Swiss news website Watson reported the IIHF would move matches at the tournament from Minsk amid the crisis in the country sparked by Lukashenko's controversial re-election in August.

Fasel and the IIHF have insisted they still plan for Belarus to co-host the event with Riga in Latvia, despite calls for the competition to be moved amid a violent Government crackdown on protesters - including athletes - against the Lukashenko regime.

Those calls intensified after the IIHF confirmed an investigation has been launched into Belarusian Ice Hockey Association (BIHA) President Dmitri Baskov, who has been accused of involvement in the death of an opposition activist.

A meeting between Fasel, IIHF secretary general Horst Lichtner and Lukashenko earlier this month was abandoned after the two senior IIHF officials tested positive for coronavirus prior to travelling to Minsk.

Fasel told Russia's official state news agency TASS the meeting would be held no earlier than January 7.

Watson reported the IIHF has already made the decision to move the matches planned for Minsk and Fasel would use the meeting to personally tell Lukashenko that Belarus will no longer be a co-host.

Doubts remain over Belarus' co-hosting of the 2021 World Championship, the IIHF's flagship tournament ©Getty Images
Doubts remain over Belarus' co-hosting of the 2021 World Championship, the IIHF's flagship tournament ©Getty Images

Fasel told Watson there were "two or three" alternatives should the IIHF formally decide to strip Belarus of the event.

Bratislava in Slovakia and the Czech capital Prague have been cited as potential co-hosts with Riga, which is not deemed suitable to stage the entire tournament.

Russia had offered to step in to replace Belarus but the country is barred from being awarded or hosting major events until December 2022 under the series of sanctions imposed on the nation by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for the manipulation of the Moscow Laboratory data.

Finland and Sweden have also been ruled out as they are due to stage the Men's Ice Hockey World Championship in 2022 and 2025 respectively.

"Under the given conditions, a World Cup in the Czech Republic or Slovakia cannot be ruled out," said Fasel, according to Watson.

Representatives from the Slovak Ice Hockey Federation and the Czech Ice Hockey Association told TASS they were not aware of the discussions.

The BIHA dismissed suggestions Minsk will be stripped of its co-hosting rights.

"The Belarusian side has not received official notifications about the transfer of the World Championship matches from Minsk to another country and continues to prepare in accordance with the previously approved recommendations of the IIHF," the organisation said in a statement to TASS.

In a statement, the IIHF dismissed the report by Watson and insisted the tournament remains scheduled to take place in Minsk and Riga.

"There has been no change in the status of the 2021 IIHF World Championship," an IIHF spokesperson told insidethegames.

"The Watson report was incorrect in its assertion that there will be a meeting next month to inform the Belarusian Government that the tournament is cancelled.

"The purposes of the IIHF requesting a meeting with the Belarus Government is to get a clear overview from the government on the virus, political, and social situations within the country as they relate to the World Championship, and what measures are being taken to address these issues. 

"The IIHF hasn’t received a confirmation yet that the meeting has been scheduled."