MOSCOW, May 27. /TASS/. A decision by the European Cycling Union (UEC) to relocate the 2021 Elite Track European Championship from the Belarusian capital of Minsk next month was not politically motivated, UEC Vice President Alexander Gusyatnikov told TASS on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, the UEC executive management stated its decision to cancel the European event in Belarus, saying that "In light of the current international situation, the Management Board has decided to cancel the 2021 Elite Track European Championships scheduled in Minsk (Belarus) from 23 to 27 June 2021."
"It was a unanimous decision to cancel the European championship in Belarus," Gusyatnikov said in an interview with TASS. "We cannot deprive our teams of the right to participate in this tournament," he insisted.
"Political motivations were not behind this decision since we made it proceeding from present-day options of transporting the participating teams to Minsk," he continued. "This was the main reason while the rest of the reported reasons are speculations."
The UEC vice president also said that the new venue to replace Minsk would be announced in the coming two days.
"We want to organize this European championship within the previously set dateline scheduled for Minsk, that is, between May 23 and 27," Gusyatnikov stated. "We already have candidates, and we will announce a decision in the next two days," he revealed.
UEC President Enrico Della Casa stated earlier in the day that: "We have recently been monitoring the situation with the Belarus Cycling Federation which has now developed into an international debate and today during the Management Board meeting, we have decided to cancel the event in Minsk."
"We are already working on finding an alternative solution to enable the riders from our 50 National Federations to compete in this season’s continental event," the UEC president added.
On May 23, a Vilnius-bound Ryanair flight that took off from Athens made an emergency landing at Minsk International Airport after a reported bomb threat. No explosive devices were found on board, so the incident turned out to be a false alarm.
Minsk specified that Roman Protasevich, one of the co-founders of the Nexta Telegram channel deemed an extremist entity in Belarus, had been among the passengers. Protasevich was detained after the airliner had landed in the Belarusian capital. Later on, that same day, the plane left Minsk and continued on to Vilnius.
On May 24, EU leaders decided to prohibit Belarusian airlines from flying to EU airports and performing flights over the European Union. They also advised European air carriers to avoid Belarusian airspace in response to the incident. Ukraine halted flights with Belarus as of midnight on May 26 and banned its airlines from performing flights in Belarusian airspace.