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.”  

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.