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Finnish ice hockey fans threaten club with boycott over game in violence-torn Minsk

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Jokeri player Jan-Mikael Juutilainen (front) in action during the European Trophy 2010 Hockey match Jokerit vs Adler Mannheim in Vantaa, on August 11, 2010
Jokeri player Jan-Mikael Juutilainen (front) in action during the European Trophy 2010 Hockey match Jokerit vs Adler Mannheim in Vantaa, on August 11, 2010   -   Copyright  Matti Raivio / LEHTIKUVA / AFP
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The fans of one of the biggest Finnish ice-hockey clubs are threatening an all-out boycott on the team's home games if they accept to play a game in protest-torn Minsk.

The Helsinki-based Jokerit squad is set to face Dinamo Minsk on Thursday for the opening game of Europe's biggest professional ice-hockey league, the KHL.

But the fans say it would risk legitimising the authority of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, who was elected for a sixth term after a hugely contested presidential election on August 9.

Jokerit manager Jari Kurri said his team did try to postpone the game - but Dinamo Minsk opposed it.

"We have exceptionally decided to go to Minsk only on match day and come back immediately," he stated, adding that the club's hope is that "Belarus will find a peaceful solution to the political situation".

The editor of a Finnish local sports magazine, Hufvudstadsbladet, said that the fan's move will shift attention from ice-hockey "to human rights" but ruled out the game will be called off.

"The owners of Jokerit have strong ties with the Kremlin", he said.

Dinamo Minsk's fans have announced a boycott of home matches too - after the club owners expressed support for Lukashenko in the media, according to news agency AFP.

You can watch the interview in the media player above.