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Belarus athlete offered Poland visa as US slams ‘repression’

A Belarusian Olympic athlete was sheltering in Poland’s embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday after being offered safe passage to Warsaw, as the US slammed her team’s attempt to send her home.

Olympic athlete Tsimanouskaya has said she fears for her safety if she returns to Belarus
Olympic athlete Tsimanouskaya has said she fears for her safety if she returns to Belarus

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya says she fears for her safety if she returns to Belarus, and claims her team attempted to force her onto a plane after she criticised her coaches.

The Global Athlete organisation meanwhile called on the International Olympic Committee to suspend Belarus’s Olympic organisation, as the IOC said it would formally investigate Tsimanouskaya’s claims.

The 24-year-old sprinter spent the night in Poland’s embassy in Tokyo after arriving there on Monday evening.

Poland said Monday it had granted her a humanitarian visa after a “criminal attempt” to kidnap the athlete.

“We have made sure that Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is safe in the Polish embassy in Tokyo and we will, if necessary, offer her the possibility of continuing her career,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki wrote on Facebook.

The athlete was expected to stay at the Polish embassy in Tokyo until leaving for Warsaw, possibly as soon as Wednesday, Poland-based dissident Pavel Latushka wrote on Twitter.

Her husband Arseny Zdanevich told AFP he had fled Belarus and was hoping to join his wife “in the near future”.

“I believe it would not be safe for me to be there,” the 25-year-old fitness trainer said by phone from Ukraine.

Tsimanouskaya, a 200 metres specialist, criticised the Belarusian athletics federation after they tried to force her to run in a relay. She said that outburst had led to the attempt to forcibly send her home.

Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko has been cracking down on any form of dissent since mass protests erupted after elections last year that were deemed unfair by the West.

Tsimanouskaya was one of more than 2,000 Belarusian sports figures who signed an open letter calling for new elections and for political prisoners to be freed.

Poland is a staunch critic of Lukashenko’s regime and has become home to a growing number of dissidents. AFP

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