Japan says Belarus athlete is safe while US and EU condemn Lukashenko | Olympic Games News | World Weekly
Japan said on Tuesday it was keeping the Belarusian Olympic athlete who took refuge in the Polish embassy “safe” as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced an official investigation into the incident and the United States condemned Belarus’ attempts to send her home as intolerable “cross-border repression.”
Kristina Tsimanoskaya, 24, requested police protection Sunday during a standoff at Tokyo airport to avoid returning to Belarus, where she believes her life would be in danger.
The runner, who said she was taken to the airport against her will because she criticized her team’s coaching staff, has now obtained a humanitarian visa from Poland.
Her supporters say she will fly to Warsaw on Wednesday and that her husband, Arseny Zhdanievich, will join her there.
Meanwhile, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Tuesday: “We, in cooperation with the parties concerned, are trying to keep it safe.”
“She is now in a safe position,” he added.
The incident focused attention on Belarus, where police cracked down on opponents following a wave of protests sparked by last year’s elections that the opposition says were rigged to keep President Alexander Lukashenko in power.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a tweet on Twitter that Lukashenko’s government “sought to commit another act of transnational repression” by “attempting to force Olympian Kristina Tsimanskaya to leave just for the sake of exercising freedom of expression”.
“Such actions violate the Olympic spirit and are an insult to basic rights and cannot be tolerated,” he added.
The Lukashenka regime sought to commit another act of transnational repression: trying to force Olympian Kristina Tsimanskaya to leave just to exercise freedom of expression. Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an insult to basic rights, and cannot be tolerated.
Secretary Anthony Blinken (@SecBlinken) August 3, 2021
Meanwhile, the European Union welcomed Poland’s decision to grant Tsimanouskaya a visa and said the repatriation attempt was further evidence of the “brutal repression” by the Belarusian president.
In Tokyo, IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters on Tuesday that the body had spoken to the player twice on Monday, and that she was in a safe place. He said the IOC needed to know all the facts before taking further action.
“We are expecting and have requested a report from the Belarus National Olympic Committee today (Tuesday),” Adams said, adding that the IOC was still gathering facts. We want it (report) today. We have decided to launch an official investigation. We need to prove the facts completely. We need to listen to everyone involved.”
Asked if the IOC’s decision on the matter would be made during the Games, Adams said it was not possible to estimate how long the investigation would take.
“Obviously it could take some time. We need to get to the bottom of it. How long it will take I don’t know,” he said.
“request from above”
The runner told a Reuters reporter via Telegram that the Belarus coach came to her room on Sunday in the athletes’ village and told her she had to leave.
“The coach came to me and said there was an order from above to remove me,” she wrote in the letter. “At five in the evening, they came to my room and told me to pack up and take me to the airport.”
But she refused to board the plane and asked for the protection of the Japanese police.
Tsimanoskaya, who was due to compete in the 200 metres, said she was removed from the team because she spoke about what she described as the neglect of their coaches.
She had complained on Instagram about her entry into the 4x400m relay after some team members were found ineligible to compete in the Olympics because they had not undergone adequate doping tests.
“The coach added me to the relay without my knowledge,” Tsimanskaya said.
The Belarus Olympic Committee said the coaches decided to withdraw Tsimanskaya from the Games on the advice of doctors about her “emotional and psychological state”.
Belarusian athletics coach Yuri Moiseevich told state television that he “could see that something was wrong with her… Either she isolated herself or she didn’t want to speak.”
Belarusian opposition politician Pavel Latushko, who is based in Warsaw, told Reuters that Belarusian officials had told Tsimanoskaya’s mother that her daughter had been a spy for Western governments and that someone from Lukashenko’s office had approached the mother and asked her to persuade the athlete to return home.
After withdrawing from the Games, Tsimanoskaya asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn the refusal of Belarus Olympic officials to allow her to race in the 200 metres.
But the court said in a statement on Tuesday that Tsimanskaya “was unable to establish her case for provisional compensation.”