Why a Belarusian Olympic sprinter refused to return home

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Why a Belarusian Olympic sprinter refused to return home


When Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya criticized her coaches for entering her “behind [her] back ”in the 4x400m relay event at the Tokyo Olympics, she unleashed a chain of events that quickly grew out of her control. On Sunday, she was removed from the team and driven to the airport by officials. But Tsimanouskaya refused to board the flight back to Minsk and requested protection from the Japanese police.

The gardians André Roth recount Rachel Humphreys that this sporting disagreement quickly became political and that Tsimanouskaya had little choice but to take refuge outside Belarus. Now she has flown from Tokyo to Vienna after receiving humanitarian aid from Poland. Her husband, Arseniy Zdanevich, fled Belarus for Ukraine on Sunday.

The Tokyo incident made headlines around the world and was followed this week by news that Vitaly Shishov, the head of a Kiev-based nonprofit that helps Belarusians fleeing persecution, had been found dead in a park in the Ukrainian capital. There are suspicions that he may have been murdered.

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson met Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to tell her the UK is on the side of those trying to overthrow the tyrannical regime led by Alexander Lukashenko.

Photographie: Aleksandra Szmigiel / Reuters

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