A Belarusian Olympic athlete will seek asylum in Poland after she refused an order to return home — claiming she wouldn’t be “safe” in the authoritarian country in light of her criticism of the government on social media.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, was spotted arriving at the Polish embassy in Tokyo around 5 p.m. local time on Monday in an unmarked, silver van with her official team luggage in tow.
She was met at the gates by two women carrying a flag that’s considered the symbol of opposition in Belarus and will seek asylum in Poland, according to a local member of the community who is in touch with the athlete.
On Sunday, Tsimanouskaya narrowly escaped her minders at a Tokyo airport when she flagged down a police officer and was brought to a hotel and placed under protection.
The sprinter had blasted her coaches online for putting her in a relay race without consulting her first and, instead of competing on Monday as originally planned, she was ordered to board a flight and return home.
“We’ve received an order: you’re to fly home today,” Artur Shumak, a Belarusian sports official, allegedly told the athlete on a leaked phone call, according to the Times of London.
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“If you want to continue competing for the Belarusian Republic, then listen to what you’re advised to do: come, go home to your parents, or wherever you like. And let this situation slide.
“Otherwise the more you twitch … You know, when a fly is caught in a spider web, the more it writhes, the more it gets stuck. That’s how life is organized … you did a stupid thing.”
Tsimanouskaya pleaded with the International Olympic Committee to intervene, claiming she wouldn’t be safe if she returned to Belarus — and Poland, where many critics of the authoritarian regime live in exile, quickly offered her assistance.
“Poland is ready to help Kryscina Tsimanouskaya a Belarusian athlete ordered by the Lukashenka regime to return [from] Olympic Games to Minsk. She was offered a humanitarian visa and is free to pursue her sporting career in Poland if she so chooses,” Marcin Przydacz, a Polish foreign ministry official, wrote on Twitter.
Belarus, a former Soviet state, has been under autocratic rule by President Lukashenko since 1994 and has been embroiled in political turmoil since a disputed election last August led to massive protests that the dictator violently quashed.
With Post wires