On Saturday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko played ice hockey, ostensibly ignoring the danger of further international sanctions over a migrant crisis at the European Union’s border.
The 67-year-old, who has been in charge for 27 years, was photographed on the ice in his red jersey posing for photographers after his club defeated a Minsk region side 5-2, according to photographs posted on his website.
Lukashenko could be seen shooting a shot at goal and slapping fists with fellow team mates, earning cheers from the crowd in footage that may have been timed to present an air of indifference to his confrontation with the West.
Like his main supporter, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko is a long-time hockey fan and has used it to project a strongman image at home.
Lukashenko has infuriated the European Union which has accused Minsk of mounting a “hybrid attack” on it by flying in thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, and pushing them to try to cross illegally into Poland. read more
The EU is gearing up to impose sanctions on Belarus.
The hockey footage did not allude to the crisis, but the president’s office said earlier on Saturday that Lukashenko had ordered the distribution and delivery of humanitarian aid to the migrants at the border.
Separately, Lukashenko said he wanted to receive Russian nuclear-capable Iskander missile systems to deploy them in the south and west of the country in an interview with a Russian defence magazine published on Saturday.