Belarus stripped of European track cycling championships

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Belarus was stripped of hosting next month’s European track cycling championships on Thursday amid an international furor after a passenger jet was diverted to Minsk so a dissident journalist could be arrested.

The European Cycling Union cited the “current international situation” for canceling the event in Minsk scheduled from June 23-27. Organizers are looking for a replacement venue.

European Union leaders called the airplane incident a state-sponsored hijacking. Belarus has been in turmoil since authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory last August in a disputed presidential election.

The EU advised member countries’ airlines this week to avoid Belarus airspace and barred the former Soviet republic’s planes from their airports and airspace.

A Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was told by flight controllers, citing a bomb threat, to land in Minsk on Sunday. A passenger, 26-year-old activist Raman Pratasevich, was taken from the plane.

Cycling officials said they are “working on finding an alternative solution” to stage the track championships.

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