‘Kidnapped’ Olympic Sprinter Says She Will Be Jailed If Forced To Go Back To Belarus
Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, says she was forced to pack before being taken to the airport in Tokyo against her will.
Frightened for her safety, she sought police protection at the terminal so she would not have to board the plane.
“I think I am safe. I am with the police,” she was heard saying, while surrounded by policemen.
Tsimanouskaya, who was due to compete in the women’s 200m event on Monday, had expressed her worries on social media about being rushed into another race at short notice.
She revealed that she was “put under pressure” by team officials to get back to Belarus and asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to help her.
In a video shared by the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF), an organization that supports athletes who are imprisoned or mistreated for their political views, she said:
“They are trying to get me out of the country without my permission.”
The IOC said it was looking for transparency from Belarussian authorities – who earlier stated she was taken off the team because of her “emotional and psychological condition”.
Later on, the IOC said it had spoken to Tsimanouskaya.
“She has told us she feels safe,” the committee said.
The plane left without Tsimanouskaya on board. She is now said to be “safe” and under police protection, the BSSF’s Anatol Kotau told the BBC.
The athlete had previously alleged in a clip shared on the web that she took part in the 400m relay event on Thursday at very short notice by officials from Belarus after some of the country’s team members were found ineligible for the competition.
Furthermore, Belarusian media took aim at her after she shared a clip, with one television channel saying she lacked “team spirit”.
Tsimanouskaya claimed that officials came to her room and gave her one hour to pack her belongings before taking her to the Haneda airport.
She said she had been taken off the team due “to the fact that I spoke on my Instagram about the negligence of our coaches”. Her supporters described the scenes that unfolded as an attempt for “kidnapping”.
Tsimanouskaya is now reportedly considering potential asylum opportunities in Europe.
"I consider the situation around the #Belarusian sprinter Kristsina Timanovskaya to be scandalous. The #CzechRepublic is ready to help .. we offer her a visa to enter the country so that she can apply for int'l protection w us"
Czech FM also offers help https://t.co/A9cxlxpMTO
— Lotte Leicht (@LotteLeicht1) August 2, 2021
A number of countries, including the Czech Republic and Poland, have said they are ready to grant her a visa along with protection.
However, she still fears for her family’s safety, Mr. Kotau of the BSSF told the BBC.
“She’s afraid of repression on her family in Belarus – this is the main concern for her right now,” he said.
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