Olympic officials said on Tuesday they would investigate Belarus into allegations the team tried to force an athlete currently a refugee at the Polish embassy in Tokyo to return home after criticizing her coaches.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya says she fears for her safety if she returns to Belarus, and she is expected to visit Poland this week after being offered a humanitarian visa.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday accused Belarus of an “act of transnational repression” over the alleged attempt to force her to return home.
Tsimanouskaya spent the night at the Polish Embassy in Tokyo after arriving there on Monday evening. Warsaw has denounced what it calls a “criminal attempt” to kidnap the athlete.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he had spoken to “brave” Tsimanouskaya, who is “currently well taken care of and safe”.
“I assured her that she could count on the support and solidarity of Poland. In the next few days, she will fly to Warsaw, where she will be able to flourish without obstacles and, if she wishes, will benefit from additional assistance, ”he said. wrote on Facebook.
Tsimanouskaya’s husband, Arseny Zdanevich, told AFP he had fled Belarus and hoped to join his wife “in the near future”.
“I think it wouldn’t be safe for me to be there,” said the 25-year-old fitness trainer by phone from Ukraine.
200-meter specialist Tsimanouskaya criticized the Belarusian athletics federation after trying to force it to run in a relay. She said that this explosion led to the attempt to force her home.
Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko has cracked down on all forms of dissent since mass protests erupted after last year’s elections which 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 the release of political prisoners.
Poland is a fierce critic of the Lukashenko regime and has become home to a growing number of dissidents.
Morawiecki said offering assistance to the athlete was an important gesture “to make known on the international stage what is happening across our eastern border”, telling Belarusians “we will not leave you stranded!” “
– “Alarming abuse of athletes” –
The activist group Global Athlete overnight called on the IOC to immediately suspend the Belarusian Olympic committee and allow the country’s athletes to compete as neutral athletes.
The NGO said that “the alleged kidnapping of Tsimanouskaya… is another example of the alarming abuse of athletes occurring in Belarus”.
IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said the body was launching an official investigation and also expected to receive a report from the Belarusian Olympic committee today.
“We’re going to have to establish the facts,” he told reporters in Tokyo, adding that the IOC would “need to hear from everyone involved.”
Asked about the safety of the team’s remaining athletes at the Games, Adams said IOC and Tokyo 2020 staff were based in the Olympic Village and could be contacted if necessary.
– ‘Front for fundamental rights’ –
The US Secretary of State accused the Lukashenko regime of trying “to commit another act of transnational repression: trying to force Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya to leave simply for exercising her freedom of expression.”
“Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an affront to fundamental rights and cannot be tolerated,” he tweeted.
Lukashenko, in power since 1994, sparked international outrage in May by sending a fighter jet to intercept a Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania in order to arrest a dissident on board.
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski appeared to refer to this incident when he declined to confirm whether Tsimanouskaya would be flying on Wednesday, as has been said, saying it was a matter of security.
“As we know, the regime of Alexander Lukashenko is known to use different methods, often downright illegal,” he told Polsat News.
The Olympic saga came as Ukrainian police said a missing Belarusian activist, whose NGO is helping his compatriots flee the country, was found hanged in a park in Kiev.
© 2021 AFP