Belarus Olympic Sprinter Arrives In Vienna Amid Safety Fears

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she hoped she could continue her running career but that safety was her immediate priority.

8/5/2021 7:29:00 AM

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she hoped she could continue her running career but that safety was her immediate priority.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she hoped she could continue her running career but that safety was her immediate priority.

VIENNA, Austria (AP) — A plane carrying a Belarusian Olympic sprinter seeking refuge landed in Austria on Wednesday after she resisted an attempt by her Olympic team’s officials to send her home, where she feared reprisals from the authoritarian government.

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Krystsina Tsimanouskaya boarded a plane at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport that left for Vienna, but she was expected to travel on to Poland, which has offered her a humanitarian visa. Before leaving Japan, the 24-year-old Tsimanouskaya said she hoped she could continue her running career but that safety was her immediate priority.

Her husband fled the country quickly this week when he realized that his wife would not be returning to Belarus.Kyodo News via APBelarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya waves as she leaves Narita International Airport in Narita, east of Tokyo Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. (Kyodo News via AP)

Vienna Airport said the direct flight that Tsimanouskaya boarded landed Wednesday at 3:08 p.m. (1308 GMT). Vadim Krivosheyev, an activist with the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, said Tsimanouskaya took the flight to Austria instead of Warsaw on the advice of Polish authorities.

“The decision to change the route and fly to Vienna was made by the Polish side for security reasons,” Krivosheyev told The Associated Press.Tsimanouskaya was expected to head to Warsaw later Wednesday, according to Krivosheyev.Tsimanouskaya’s experience at the Tokyo Games became an international issue after she accused Belarusian team officials of hustling her to the airport several days ago and trying to put her on a plane to Belarus because she had criticized the team’s management on social media. The team officials said she would face reprisals back home, she said.

The officials “made it clear that, upon return home, I would definitely face some form of punishment,” Tsimanouskaya told the AP in a videocall from Tokyo on Tuesday. “There were also thinly disguised hints that more would await me.”She added that she believed she would be kicked off Belarus’ national team.

“I would very much like to continue my sporting career because I’m just 24, and I had plans for two more Olympics at least,” Tsimanouskaya said. But “for now, the only thing that concerns me is my safety.”Reached by phone Tuesday, Dzmitry Dauhalionak, the head of Belarus’ delegation at the Summer Olympics, declined comment, saying that he has “no words.”

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AP Photo/Martin Meissner, FileIn this file photo taken on Friday, July 30, 2021, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, of Belarus, runs in the women's 100-meter run at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Japan. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)Tsimanouskaya’s criticism of how officials were managing her team set off a massive backlash in state-run media in Belarus. The runner said on Instagram that she was put in the 4x400 relay even though she has never raced in the event. She was then barred from competing in the 200 meters.

The sprinter called on international sports authorities Tuesday “to investigate the situation, who gave the order, who actually took the decision that I can’t compete anymore.” She suggested possible sanctions against the head coach.In the AP interview, Tsimanouskaya also expressed worry for her parents, who remain in Belarus. Her husband, Arseni Zdanevich, told the AP that he decided to leave the country when Tsimanouskaya told him she wasn’t coming back.

Belarus was rocked by months of protests after President Alexander Lukashenko was awarded a sixth term in an August 2020 presidential election that the opposition and the West saw as rigged. Authorities responded to demonstrations with a sweeping crackdown that saw over 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.

In a show of determination to stifle dissent at any cost, Belarus authorities diverted a passenger plane that was flying from Greece to Lithuania in May and ordered it to land in the Belarusian capital, where they arrested an opposition journalist on board.

AP Photo/Daniel Kozin, FileIn this file photo taken from video, Belarus Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya speaks during a zoom interview with the Associated Press in Japan, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Daniel Kozin, File)Amid Tsimanouskaya’s rift with team officials, two other Belarusian athletes announced their intention to stay abroad.

AdvertisementHeptathlete Yana Maksimava said she and her husband Andrei Krauchanka, who won silver in the decathlon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, would remain in Germany.“I’m not planning to return home after all the events that happened in Belarus,” Maksimava said on Instagram, adding that “you can lose not just your freedom but also your life” in her homeland.

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The authoritarian Belarusian president, who led the Belarus National Olympic Committee for almost a quarter-century before handing over the job to his older son in February, has shown a keen interest in sports, seeing it as a key element of national prestige.

Both Lukashenko and his son were banned from the Tokyo Games by the International Olympic Committee, which investigated complaints from athletes that they faced intimidation during the crackdown on anti- government protests over the last year.Western leaders have condemned Tsimanouskaya’s treatment by Belarusian authorities.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced Belarusian officials’ attempt to force Tsimanouskaya to return to Belarus for exercising free speech as “another act of transnational repression.”“Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an affront to basic rights, and cannot be tolerated,” Blinken said on Twitter.

Read more: HuffPost »

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These are her words: She didnt follow national team rules, than refused to go back home, main reason :She belive they would kick off the team.. Politics.... if not from Belarus, she would never get humanitarian visa on this case. wow

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Belarusian Olympic sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya boards Vienna-bound flight out of TokyoBelarusian Olympic sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya, who refused to fly home fearing she would be arrested, has left Japan aboard a Vienna-bound flight. Her case has heightened fears of the safety of those who speak out against Belarusian officials. Better hope that plane doesn’t get diverted to Belarus, wouldn’t be the first time. Keep them safe! Pls protect her.. May God be with her

Why Belarus wanted to silence an Olympic sprinterFor President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, known as Europe’s last dictator, this was personal. es un hashtag vacío. La idea es que se sepa qué pasa. 👉 NO HAY MEDICAMENTOS. 👉 Pedimos apoyo internacional. 👉 Que se acepte el colapso del sistema de salud. SOSCubaLibre SOSCuba

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Belarus athlete switches flight out of Tokyo due to security concernsIn the latest plot twist in the diplomatic stand-off unfolding on the sidelines of Tokyo 2020, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya boarded a flight to Vienna but is expected to head to Poland, where she has been offered a humanitarian visa.

Belarusian Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya Flies To Austria In Latest Twist To Olympic Diplomatic SagaThe Belarusian sprinter, who feared persecution in the home nation, was originally scheduled to fly to Warsaw after receiving a humanitarian visa from Poland. wishing her the best wow Stay safe,so sad you have to hide from your own goverment