The Russian and Belarusian national teams have been suspended by the IIHF ©Getty Images

Russia has been stripped of the 2023 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship in light of the invasion of Ukraine, and its national teams and clubs suspended from all IIHF competitions "until further notice".

Belarus' national teams and clubs have received the same sanction.

The IIHF Council ruling bans both countries from the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in May - where the Russian team was due to compete under the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) banner due to doping sanctions - and the ROC from the Women's World Championship in August and September.

The International Federation said it had taken the decision to move next year's World Junior Championship from Russia "to enable the IIHF to ensure the safety of IIHF Championships and all participating players, officials, and fans".

"The IIHF Council also expressed deep concerns over the safe freedom of movement of players and officials to, from, and within Russia," a statement read.

"The IIHF Council also took into account the Russian Government’s breach of the Olympic Truce, which was adopted in December 2021 as a UN resolution by United Nations General Assembly."

The competition had been scheduled for December 26 2022 to January 5 2023.

Russia is still due to host the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Saint Petersburg in May next year.

The Council "has not left out the possibility of further actions impacting future events".

Earlier today, the International Olympic Committee recommended that all athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus are banned from international sporting events, and reiterated its plea first made on Friday (February 25) for events due to be staged in the two countries to be moved or cancelled.

IIHF President Luc Tardif insisted the measures taken were in the interests of participants' safety.

"The IIHF is not a political entity and cannot influence the decisions being taken over the war in Ukraine," Tardif commented.

IIHF President Luc Tardif said the organisation
IIHF President Luc Tardif said the organisation "is not a political entity and cannot influence the decisions being taken over the war in Ukraine", but has "a duty of care to all of our members and participants" ©Getty Images

"We nevertheless have a duty of care to all of our members and participants and must therefore do all we can to ensure that we are able to operate our events in a safe environment for all teams taking part in the IIHF World Championship programme."

The IIHF strongly condemned "the use of military force and urges the use of diplomatic means to solve conflict", and Tardif said he had been in touch with the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine.

"We were incredibly shocked to see the images that have come out of Ukraine," the IIHF President said.

"I have been in close contact with members of the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine and we hope for all Ukrainians that this conflict can be resolved in a peaceful way and without the need for further violence."

The IIHF had been under increasing pressure to exclude Russia and Belarus from its competitions.

Finland is set to host the men's World Championship in Tampere and Helsinki, and the chairman of the Finnish Ice Hockey Association Harri Nummela insisted "it is not possible for Russia and Belarus to participate" at the event in May.

Nummela added that Russia and Belarus should "be completely excluded from international hockey activities and that we do not intend to play against the national teams of these countries".

Canadian National Hockey League (NHL) legend Wayne Gretzky also suggested that Russia should not be permitted to compete in the IIHF World Junior Championship later this year, which is due to be held in Edmonton and Red Deer.

"I think international hockey should say, 'we're not going to let them play in the World Junior hockey tournament'," Gretzky told NHL on TNT.

"I think we've got to, as Canadians, take that stance since the games are going to be played in Edmonton."

Canadian ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky had called for Russia to be banned from the IIHF World Junior Championship ©Getty Images
Canadian ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky had called for Russia to be banned from the IIHF World Junior Championship ©Getty Images

The Championship was cancelled mid-event in Canada at the end of last year due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Russia's men's under-20 side would not be allowed to participate at the rearranged tournament under the IIHF's sections, and neither would the country's women's under-18 team at the IIHF Ice Hockey Under-18 Women's World Championship.

Both Russia and Belarus are also barred from the IIHF Ice Hockey Under-18 World Championship, scheduled for April 21 to May 1 in Germany.

The IIHF Continental Cup is the other affected competition under the sanctions, with Belarusian club HK Gomel expelled from the final tournament which is due to start on Friday (March 4).

An announcement on the impact of Russia and Belarus' ban on promotion and relegation and tournament seeding is expected "in the coming weeks", while talks are expected on finding a new host for the 2023 World Junior Championship "in the coming months".

Prior to the IIHF Semi-Annual Congress in Saint Petersburg last September where Tardif succeeded the long-serving René Fasel, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the International Federation for its "constructive cooperation and trust" in awarding Russia the 2023 World Championship and World Junior Championship.

The ROC took silver in the men's ice hockey tournament at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, and placed fifth in the women's event.

However, Russia has increasingly been frozen out of sports since the conclusion of the Games in the Chinese capital.

Its military offensive against Ukraine, which began last Thursday (February 24), has been widely condemned.

It is estimated that more than half a million people have fled since the start of the invasion, while Ukraine's Health Ministry reported yesterday that 352 civilians have been killed.