European track championships in Belarus in doubt after Ryanair flight was ‘hijacked’

German team have already pulled out while British squad expecting competition to be moved

The 2019 European Games in Minsk
(Image credit: Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The European track championships in Belarus are now in doubt after a Ryanair flight was ‘hijacked’ while flying over the country last weekend. 

Scheduled to take place in late June, the UEC Track Elite European Championships in the capital Minsk are the last major competition before the Olympics Games in Tokyo later this summer.

But the contest could now be moved elsewhere, as an international incident has broken out when a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was forced to land in the capital city of Minsk on Sunday, May 23, after being diverted by a Belarusian fighter jet. 

The forced landing is believed to have been carried out by the Belarusian government so authorities could arrest the Belarusian dissident blogger Roman Protasevich, who lives in exile.  

Since the incident, airlines have been warned to avoid flying through Belarusian airspace, while further sanctions are being considered against the regime run by authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko. 

The German cycling federation has already confirmed it will not take part in European Championships, scheduled to run from June 23-27, while British Cycling performance director Stephen Park has said there is “no way the UEC can continue to deliver the Track Euros in Minsk next month.” 

On Tuesday (May 25), the Union Européenne de Cyclisme (UEC) said it would make a decision on whether the Euros will continue during a board meeting on Thursday (May 27). 

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The statement said: “In light of the recent international events, the Union Européenne de Cyclisme is carefully monitoring the situation and will make a decision at the Management Board meeting on 27 May 2021 regarding the Elite Track European Championships in Minsk (Belarus) from 23 to 27 June. 

“No other comments will be published before this date.”