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Who is Krystsina Tsimanouskaya — Belarusian athlete under police protection in Japan

The Independent logo The Independent 04/08/2021 Graeme Massie
a person sitting in front of a mirror posing for the camera:  Belarus athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who claimed her team tried to force her to leave Japan following a row during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, walks with her luggage inside the Polish embassy in Tokyo on August 2, 2021.  - AFP via Getty Images © AFP via Getty Images

Belarus athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who claimed her team tried to force her to leave Japan following a row during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, walks with her luggage inside the Polish embassy in Tokyo on August 2, 2021.

- AFP via Getty Images

She is the Belarusian sprinter who refused to board a plane back to her home country saying she feared arrest upon her return.

Now Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has received a humanitarian visa from Poland after the diplomatic drama unfolded in Tokyo.

Timanovskaya, 24, was set to run in the 200m at the Olympics but said that she was being forced to go home after criticising team officials for entering her into the 4x400m relay behind her back.

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Team officials then went to the Olympic Village on Sunday and ordered her to pack her belongings and go to the airport.

She had been due to leave Tokyo on a 10.50pm flight to Istanbul, but when she arrived at Haneda international airport she approached Japanese police and asked to apply for political asylum.

“I am afraid that I might be jailed in Belarus,” Timanovskaya told Belarusian sports news site Tribuna.

“I am not afraid of being fired or kicked out of the national team. I’m concerned about my safety.


Video: Japan says Belarusian athlete is 'safe' in Tokyo (Reuters)

“And I think that at the moment it is not safe for me in Belarus. I didn’t do anything, but they deprived me of the right to participate in the 200 metre race and wanted to send me home.”

Her husband, Arseni Zdanevich, also left Belarus and entered Ukraine, officials have confirmed.

Japanese officials removed Timanovskaya from the airport and she spent the night at an airport hotel, under their protection.

She was then seen entering the Polish embassy in Tokyo on Monday.

Poland’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marcin Przydacz, took to Twitter to announce that she had been granted a visa.

“Poland will do whatever is necessary to help her to continue her sporting career. (Poland) always stands for solidarity,” he tweeted.

He later said that the athlete would travel to Poland in the coming days.

“According to her decision, that’s what our consul heard in Tokyo, she’s planning to come to Poland in days to come to be here in Warsaw. And if she would like... she is free to pursue her sporting career in Poland,” said Mr Przydacz.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko declared himself the winner of a sixth term in office last August and has cracked down on political opponents.

In June Belarus authorities diverted an international flight in their airspace so they could arrest opposition journalist Roman Protasevich.

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