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29 Apr, 2022 12:48

European country forbids its hockey stars to play in Russia

The EU nation announced an amendment which outlawed competing in Russia
European country forbids its hockey stars to play in Russia

Sports stars from Latvia will not be allowed to compete in Russia or play for Russian teams after the country’s parliament, the Saeima, adopted new amendments.

The changes cover all athletes from the country, but will likely be felt most keenly in ice hockey, where a host of players have featured in the Russia-based KHL.

“The Saeima adopted in the final reading urgent amendments to the Sports Law. The amendments provide that sports teams registered in Latvia are prohibited from participating in national championships and national cup tournaments in Russia and Belarus,” read a press release.

“In addition, it is forbidden to compete in international tournaments for team sports, if over a half of all teams in the league are from Russia or Belarus.

“Moreover, according to the amendments, athletes and athletic personnel are prohibited from participating in sports competitions taking place in Russia or Belarus. Persons violating this provision may no longer be included in national teams or receive funding for training or competition expenses from the State or local government budget,” added the statement.

Latvian athletes and sporting organizations have also been banned from cooperating with agents from Russia and Belarus. The amendments also barred any former employees of the Soviet-era Latvian secret police from holding positions on various prominent national sports councils and federations.     

“According to the explanatory note to the amendments, these changes are introduced to ensure that the leadership of the Latvian National Sports Council and sports federations does not include persons who are disloyal to the State and the Constitution of Latvia and may use their authority to compromise national security,” it added.

The Saeima claimed the steps were justified as “sport is one of the ways how Russia exercises its soft power.”

Latvian hockey team Dinamo Riga announced its withdrawal from the KHL at the end of February after Moscow launched its military campaign in Ukraine – a decision mirroring that of Finnish team Jokerit.

Neither Dinamo Riga nor Jokerit will be part of the KHL for the 2022-23 season, the league has confirmed.