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Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 10:27 GMT
Belarus president's ice hockey victory
By BBC News Online's Stephen Mulvey
The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, is holding official meetings in Moscow on Tuesday in the afterglow of a great sporting victory.
Mr Lukashenko even got a warm write-up for his performance - in a team mainly composed of veteran Belarusian sportsmen - in the Russian press.
"The Belarusian president was not lost on the rink," wrote the business daily, Kommersant.
"He made up for his drawbacks in speed and other purely sporting aspects with flair.
"He repeatedly turned up in the right place at the right time."
Passionate about sport
Mr Lukashenko, playing as number 99, himself scored once - though he began the game by waving to the crowd, then falling to the ice in front of the Russian net.
"Actually no, it's great politics, especially ice hockey."
Mr Lukashenko's passion for sport is well known.
European diplomats have been known to tease him for naming himself head of the country's Olympic committee - in contravention of Olympic rules.
He, in turn, once declined to meet a high-ranking delegation from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe on the grounds that he was expected at an important football match.
He travels widely to support the national team at international sports championships, and does not enjoy defeat.
Mr Lukashenko, who once appeared on television sporting a black eye which he said he incurred while playing hockey, has had ice skating rinks built in all of Belarus's main cities.
He is not the only sporting president in the former Soviet Union.
Russian president Vladimir Putin - who Mr Lukashenko is meeting in the Kremlin - is a keen judo player, while his predecessor Boris Yeltsin was a top student volleyball player who later enthusiastically took up tennis.
The President of Armenia, Robert Kocharian, is a respected basketball player.
Before becoming president Mr Lukashenko used to play football regularly with other members of the Belarusian parliament.
Some of them remember him as a ferocious player, who, instead of chasing the ball, would sometimes pursue other players whom he accused of playing dirty.
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