Belarusian Olympic athlete Kristina Tsimanoskaya flies outside Tokyo | Olympic Games News | World Weekly
Kristina Tsimanoskaya, the Belarusian Olympic athlete who refused her team’s orders to go home early in the Games days ago, left Tokyo on Wednesday for Europe.
The 24-year-old runner, who claimed last week that she feared for her safety, obtained a humanitarian visa from Poland after the standoff.
After spending two nights at the Polish embassy, she walked on a plane at Tokyo’s Narita Airport on Wednesday wearing jeans, a blue blouse and sunglasses with “I RUN CLEAN” written on it.
Before leaving Japan, Tsimanskaya said she hopes she can continue her career, but safety is her immediate priority.
It was expected to leave the Japanese capital on a plane to Warsaw, but a Polish government source told Reuters it changed course at the last minute due to security concerns after news of the plan was published and journalists booked seats on the plane to Poland.
Instead, she flew to Vienna, where she is expected to travel to Warsaw.
Belarusian runner Kristina Tsimanoskaya on a flight from Tokyo to Vienna #OS52 – He will arrive soon.
As expected, the Boeing 777 avoided Belarusian airspace, and instead flew over Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. ✈️ pic.twitter.com/7Dniu9z5cw
– Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) August 4, 2021
The Polish source said the concern was particularly high over an incident in May, when a Ryanair flight was diverted to land in Belarus and an opposition journalist was subsequently arrested.
Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydać said Tsimanoskaya is still in the care of the country’s diplomatic corps.
She is scheduled to be reunited in Poland with her husband, who fled Belarus amid developments this week and is now said to be planning to seek sanctuary in Europe as well.
Austria’s Interior Ministry told Reuters on Wednesday that police officers will take care of Tsimanoskaya’s personal safety upon her arrival, and the athlete will be housed and cared for in a separate transit area until her next flight.
“In the event that an asylum application is submitted, it will be dealt with within the framework of the existing legislation,” the Ministry of Interior said in an emailed statement.
Fears of punishment
Tsimanoskaya’s experience at the Tokyo Olympics became an international issue on Sunday, when she accused Belarus team officials of pushing her to the airport and trying to put her on a plane bound for Belarus against her will because she publicly criticized them.
On Tuesday, she said team officials had made clear she would face “punishment” in her home country.
Tsimanoskaya refused to board the plane and asked for the protection of the Japanese police. She later went to the Polish embassy in Tokyo, where reports abounded that she was seeking asylum in Europe.
Her case focused attention on the political rift in Belarus, where authorities cracked down on the opposition following a wave of protests following a disputed August 2020 election that the opposition claimed was rigged to keep President Alexander Lukashenko in power.
The Belarusian authorities described the anti-government protesters, thousands of whom have been arrested, as criminals or violent revolutionaries supported by the West.
In a separate development that raised more fears among the Belarusian opposition, a Belarusian activist was found hanged in a park near his home in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on Tuesday, a day after he was reported missing.
International Olympic Committee investigation
The International Olympic Committee, which launched a formal investigation into the Tsimanoskaya case, said on Wednesday that it had received a report from the Belarusian team.
“The IOC is opening a disciplinary panel to establish the facts in this case and to hear the officials – Artur Chumak and Yuri Moisevic – who are allegedly involved in this incident,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.
The Belarus National Olympic Committee said earlier that coaches had withdrawn Tsimanoskaya from the Games on the advice of doctors about her “emotional and psychological state”.
Critics of Lukashenko’s administration, including the United States, condemned Tsimanoskaya’s treatment.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Tuesday accused Belarus of committing a “cross-border repressive act” over allegations it attempted to force it into its home.
“Acts like this violate the Olympic spirit, are an insult to fundamental rights, and cannot be tolerated,” he wrote on Twitter.
Poland, home to a growing number of Belarusian dissidents, has denounced what it called a “criminal attempt” to kidnap the athlete.