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1 Dec, 2021 09:44

Czech government expels head of Belarusian football after arrest

Czech government expels head of Belarusian football after arrest

Czech police have expelled the chairman of the Belarusian Football Federation and his wife for "anti-epidemic measures" after the 'ally' of Alexander Lukashenko attempted to attend a botched women's World Cup qualifying game.

Belarusian Football Federation supremo Vladimir Bazanov was initially held by police who confirmed they had stopped the couple during a "routine check" in the Moravian-Silesian region in the north-east of the country.

Regional press secretary Pavel Iroushkova has now confirmed that Bazanov and his spouse have been deported over a "violation of the anti-epidemic measures in force in the Republic."

Bazanov, who has been described as a 'supporter' and 'ally' of Belarusian president Lukashenko by reports, had been threatened with deportation by Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulganek, who has publicly offered "unequivocal" backing to opposition parties in Belarus.

"This person was not granted a Czech entry visa," Kulganek was quoted as saying by Denikn, reportedly adding that Bazanov would not have entered the country by plane.

"If it turns out that he is indeed in the Czech Republic, appropriate administrative measures will be taken – up to and including deportation. If he is really here, he will have to leave the Czech Republic."

The pair are said to have stayed in the Czech city of Ostrava, and had visited a stadium in Opava where Belarus's women's side had been due to play before a coronavirus outbreak scuppered the game.

Pavla Yiroushkova, a spokeswoman for local police, had said that "two foreign citizens" were arrested at their place of residence on suspicion of "entering and staying in the Czech Republic in violation of the current protective measures defined by the Ministry of Health".

The Czech Republic was one of numerous countries to recall ambassadors following the disputed presidential elections in Belarus in October 2020, and suspended flights between the countries in May after an infamous air hijacking over Belarus in order to arrest an opposition journalist.

Czech president Milos Zeman last week offered his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, the immediate deployment of soldiers for 60 days to the country's border with Belarus, which has been at the center of a diplomatic crisis after hundreds of migrants tried to cross it.

The Embassy of Belarus in the Czech Republic has reportedly refrained from commenting on the development.

The qualifying game was postponed on Tuesday after three Belarusian players tested positive for Covid, forcing others to isolate because they were deemed close contacts of their infected teammates.

The federation said all of the visiting players, who are a point behind Belarus in fourth place in Group C, had tested negative upon their arrival.

The Netherlands top the table with 11 points, with nearest rivals Iceland trailing them by six points.