TOKYO – A Belarusian athlete in Japan for the Olympics took refuge in the Polish embassy in Tokyo on Monday, a day after refusing to board a flight home with her team.
Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya applied for a humanitarian visa and plans to leave for Poland in the next few days, said Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz.
She is “safe and in good condition” after entering the embassy on Monday morning, Przydacz told Reuters.
Another deputy foreign minister, Pawel Jablonski, later said the visa had been issued.
Tsimanouskaya, 24, was scheduled to compete in the women’s 200-meter heats on Monday, but said she was taken to the airport on Sunday to board a Turkish Airlines flight.
She refused to board the flight, telling Reuters: “I will not return to Belarus.”
The incident has drawn renewed attention to political discord in Belarus, a former Soviet state led by President Alexander Lukashenko.
Police have cracked down on dissent following a wave of protests sparked by an election last year that the opposition said was rigged to keep it in power.
Polish official Przydacz previously wrote on Twitter that Tsimanouskaya was free to pursue her sports career in Poland “if she so wishes.”
Poland 🇵🇱 is ready to help Kryscina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian athlete who was ordered by the Lukashenka regime to return from the Olympics to Minsk. He was offered a humanitarian visa and is free to pursue his sports career in Poland if he so wishes.
– Marcin Przydacz (@marcin_przydacz) August 1, 2021
He pulled up in front of the embassy in an unidentified silver van around 5pm local time (0800 GMT). He walked out with his official team baggage and then greeted two officials before entering the facility.
Two women, one with the red and white flag considered the symbol of the opposition in Belarus, approached the doors to support her.
A source in the Ukrainian Interior Ministry told Reuters that Tsimanouskaya’s husband, Arseni Zhdanevich, had entered Ukraine. It was not immediately clear whether he was heading to Poland to meet his wife.
Tsimanouskaya told a Reuters reporter via Telegram that the Belarusian head coach had shown up to his room on Sunday at the athletes’ villa and told him he had to go.
“The head coach approached me and said that he had received an order from above to remove me,” he wrote in the message. “At 5 (in the afternoon) they came to my room and told me to pack my bags and they took me to the airport.”
But she refused to board and sought the protection of the Japanese police at the airport.
The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement that the coaches had decided to withdraw Tsimanouskaya from the Games on the advice of doctors about his “emotional and psychological state”.
Belarus head athletics coach Yuri Moisevich told state television that “I could see that something was wrong with her … Either she would withdraw or she didn’t want to talk.”
Earlier Monday, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said officials would continue talks with Tsimanouskaya and requested a full report from the Belarusian Olympic committee.
The Japanese government said the athlete had been kept safe while Tokyo 2020 organizers and the IOC verified her intentions.
“Japan is coordinating with the relevant parties and continues to take appropriate measures,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato.
On Monday, the IOC spokesman said it had taken a series of actions against the Belarus Olympic Committee in the run-up to the Games following nationwide protests in the country.
In March, the IOC refused to recognize the election of Lukashenko’s son Viktor as head of the country’s Olympic Committee. Both father and son were banned from attending the Games in December.
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