Belarus Olympic Athlete Seeks Asylum In EU


By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

(Worthy News) – A Belarusian Olympic athlete who criticized her nation’s authoritarian leadership and coaches wants asylum in a nation, learned Sunday.

Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said Sunday she avoided getting on a plane home from Tokyo after being taken to the airport against her will.

She confirmed that she had sought protection from Japanese at Tokyo’s Haneda airport.
“I will not return to Belarus, ” she said in published remarks.

A source at the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation, which supports athletes jailed or sidelined for their political views, said Tsimanouskaya would seek asylum in or Austria on Monday.

Belarus, a former Soviet state, is run with a tight grip by President Alexander Lukashenko. In power since 1994, he faced a wave of last year, which some athletes joined.

Tsimanouskaya ran in the women’s 100 meters heats on Friday and was scheduled to run in the 200 meters heats on Monday, along with the 4×400 meters relay on Thursday

COACHES NEGLIGENCE

The athlete told she was removed from the team due “to the fact that I spoke on my [social networking service] Instagram about the negligence of our coaches.”

Tsimanouskaya had complained on Instagram that she was entered in the 4×400 meters relay after some team members were found to be ineligible to compete at the Olympics.

“Some of our girls did not fly here to compete in the 4×400 meters relay because they didn’t have enough doping tests,” Tsimanouskaya said.

“And the coach added me to the relay without my knowledge. I spoke about this publicly. The head coach came over to me and said there had been an order from above to remove me.”

Authorities were quick to deny wrongdoing. The Belarusian Olympic Committee said coaches had decided to withdraw Tsimanouskaya from the Games on doctors’ advice about her “emotional, psychological state.”

Tsimanouskaya is the latest prominent athlete targeted by authorities in Belarus. Though elite athletes rely mainly on government funding, some prominent Belarusian athletes joined the anti-government protests. Several were jailed, including Olympic basketball player Yelena Leuchanka and decathlete Andrei Krauchanka.

LOSING JOB

Others lost their state employment or were kicked off national teams for supporting the opposition.

During the Cold , scores of sportspeople and cultural figures defected from the Soviet Union and its satellite states during overseas competitions or tours.

But observers say that the freedom of travel that came with the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union saw the need for such dramatic acts dwindle.

However, Tsimanouskaya is among an increasing number of young people fleeing Belarus amid an ongoing government crackdown on dissent and protests.

The country’s President Alexander Lukashenko said over the weekend that he was considering inviting Russian soldiers “if necessary for the ” of Belarus and neighboring .

Lukashenko had been described as Europe’s “last dictator” by the and other countries.

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