President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and IIHF President René Fasel / REUTERS

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has decided to move the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship from Minsk, Belarus.

"Due to safety and security issues that are beyond the IIHF's control, the IIHF Council confirmed today that the decision to move the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship from Minsk, Belarus is unavoidable," as reported on the IIHF's website.

The decision was reached due to the growing safety and security concerns related to both the rising political unrest and COVID-19.

Read alsoGermany's Maas says hockey world championship in Belarus "greatest PR gift for Lukashenko""It is a very regrettable thing to have to remove the Minsk/Riga co-hosting bid," said IIHF President René Fasel. "During this process, we had tried to promote that the World Championship could be used as a tool for reconciliation to help calm the socio-political issues happening in the Belarus and find a positive way forward."

"And while the Council feels that the World Championship should not be used for political promotion by any side, it has acknowledged that hosting this event in Minsk would not be appropriate when there are bigger issues to deal with and the safety and security of teams, spectators, and officials to prioritize."

With Minsk/Riga 2021 being a joint bid, the IIHF Council must consider the status of Latvia as a co-host, and will also evaluate the possibility of moving to a single-venue format to facilitate COVID-19 safety regulations and team travel.

The 2021 IIHF World Championship will take place from May 21 to June 6, 2021.

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