Sat | Dec 4, 2021

Poland grants visa to Belarus Olympian who fears for safety

Published:Tuesday | August 3, 2021 | 12:10 AM
In this image made from video provided by NTV, Belarus Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya enters the Polish embassy in Tokyo, Japan, yesterday.
In this image made from video provided by NTV, Belarus Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya enters the Polish embassy in Tokyo, Japan, yesterday.

TOKYO (AP):

Poland granted a visa yesterday to a Belarusian Olympic sprinter who said she feared for her safety and that her team’s officials tried to force her to fly home, where the autocratic government was accused of diverting a flight to arrest a dissident journalist.

An activist group that is helping athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya told The Associated Press that it bought her a plane ticket to Warsaw for the coming days.

The current stand-off apparently began after Tsimanouskaya criticised how officials were managing her team – setting off a massive backlash in state-run media back home, where authorities relentlessly crack down on government critics. The runner said on her Instagram account that she was put in the 4x400 relay even though she has never raced in the event.

The runner was then apparently hustled to the airport but refused to board a flight for Istanbul and instead approached police for help. In a filmed message distributed on social media, she also asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for assistance.

UNDER PRESSURE

“I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent,” the 24-year-old said in the message.

The rapid-fire series of events brought international political intrigue to an Olympics that have been more focused on operational dramas, like maintaining safety during a pandemic and navigating widespread Japanese opposition to holding the event at all.

United Nations spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said: “What is important is that everyone who asks for protection, for refugee status, is afforded that opportunity. … The Japanese authorities have done what they can to protect her and I think that is the most important part. No one should be forced to go home under threat or under force.”