Belarusian cyclists have withdrawn from this weekend's Tour of Estonia, and may have been banned by sports authorities in that country following last Sunday's hijacking by state authorities of a civilian airliner in Belarusian airspace and the international backlash which followed.
Riders from the Minsk cycling club were due to take part in the tour, which is already underway, but were no longer listed as of Thursday.
Meanwhile Belarusian cycling news portal Peloton.BY stated on its social media page that: "[The] Belarusian Ministry of Sports didn't allow Minsk Cycling Club to go to [the] Tour of Estonia. And Ferei-CCN will participate in the shortened roster (no guys who are contracted to Belarus National Team (even MTB guys [Dainis] Bricis and [Mikhail] Besaha can't go)."
Belarusian Ministry of Sports didn`t allow Minsk Cycling Club to go to Tour of Estonia. And Ferei-CCN will participate in the shortened roster (no guys who are contracted to Belarus National Team (even MTB guys Bricis and Besaha can`t go). pic.twitter.com/HbAN0vAbUe— Peloton.BY (@Pelotonby) May 27, 2021
A Ryanair airliner destined for Vilnius, Lithuania was ordered to divert to Minsk airport while it was still in Belarusian airspace, on the pretext of a bomb threat. On board was a Belarusian opposition leader who has since been detained.
Belarusian airspace is effectively closed off, while Estonia's government has barred any Belarusian aircraft or airlines from flying in Estonian airspace, with many other EU and other European nations either following suit or considering it.
Since Belarus is a landlocked state, this virtually cuts it off from the EU.
The Tour of Estonia started Friday with the Tallinn-Tartu stage, and culminates with the Tartu Grand Prix on Saturday. Live coverage (with Estonian commentary) can be seen on ERR's sports portal here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte