Russia are set to remain excluded from the 2024 IIHF World Championship events ©Getty Images

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has extended a ban on Russia and Belarus from its World Championship events through to next season, citing safety reasons.

Both countries were excluded from the 2022-2023 IIHF World Championship season at last year's Congress because of the war in Ukraine, in line with International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendations.

At the latest IIHF Council meeting, it was deemed that "it is not yet safe to reincorporate the Russian and Belarusian teams back into IIHF competitions", following a risk assessment from another company.

IIHF President Luc Tardif explained that there were "too many risks" associated with a potential return for Russia and Belarus at this stage.

"The analysis of this professional advice brought us to consider that it is too soon to reintegrate Russia and Belarus in our competition," the French official said.

"We asked the Coordination Committee to work for the year coming to come with a proposal next spring, so in March 2024, to work on a process of reintegration of Russia and Belarus, not only in our Championship but also for the qualification round we start in summer 2024 for the Olympic Games."

Tardif confirmed to Russian state-run news agency TASS that the status of Russia and Belarus' participation in the sport would not be discussed at this year's Congress in May in Tampere.

Next year's men's IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship is due to be held in Prague and Ostrava in the Czech Republic from May 10 to 26, and the Women's World Championship will be in the United States with dates still to be decided.

Russia had originally been due to host the men's World Championship in Saint Petersburg this year, but it was stripped of the event following the invasion of Ukraine, with Tampere in Finland and Latvia's capital Riga instead due to stage matches from May 12 to 28.

Brampton in Canada is set to host the Women's World Championship from April 5 to 16.

Ice hockey is played by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarus had been due to host the 2021 men's World Championship, but it was moved to Latvia because of safety and security issues after the controversial re-election of Lukashenko sparked protests and a subsequent Government crackdown.

Tardif's predecessor as IIHF President, the Swiss official René Fasel who had led the governing body from 1994 until 2021, acquired Russian citizenship last month.

Fasel has made a number of pro-Russian remarks and was a critic of sanctions imposed on the nation in response to the state-sponsored doping programme and the subsequent cover-up.

The Russian Ice Hockey Federation (FHR) was reprimanded by the IIHF for failures to stop pro-war in Ukraine propaganda at Kontinental Hockey League matches, but no material sanctions were issued.

The FHR argued that the Council's latest decision "is neither constructive nor beneficial for world hockey", and said it would "continue to make every possible effort to return the national teams to international competitions".

Ice hockey is a hobby of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right ©Getty Images
Ice hockey is a hobby of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right ©Getty Images

National Hockey League (NHL) deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the organisation would assess the impact of the IIHF decision on plans for a World Cup of Hockey in 2025.

"Will the suspension of the Russians affect the organisation of the World Cup?" he said to TASS.

"Not directly, but possibly indirectly.

"We will continue to monitor the situation in the world before making further decisions or announcing anything."

It had been hoped that a World Cup of Hockey could be held in 2024, but this was deemed "not feasible" because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The showcase event for the sport in non-Olympic years has not been held since 2016.

The IOC has recommended the non-participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international sport since the start of the invasion of Ukraine last year, but is controversially exploring a pathway for their return.