Poland grants visa to Belarus Olympian who fears for safety

Tokyo Olympics Belarus Athlete
Posted at 5:29 PM, Aug 02, 2021

TOKYO (AP) — Poland has granted a visa to a Belarusian Olympic sprinter who said she feared for her safety and that her team's officials tried to force her to fly home.

In Belarus, the autocratic government has been accused of diverting a flight to arrest a dissident journalist.

A Polish Foreign Ministry official says runner Krystsina Tsimanouskaya received a humanitarian visa from the Polish embassy in Tokyo on Monday.

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, who is helping the runner, told The Associated Press that the group bought her a plane ticket to Warsaw for the coming days.

The current standoff apparently began after Tsimanouskaya criticized how officials were managing her team.

That set off a massive backlash in state-run media back home, where authorities relentlessly crackdown on government critics.

According to the Associated Press, Tsimanouskaya said she spoke up after she was placed in the 4x400 relay even though she had no experience racing in that event.

Tsimanouskaya said she was then rushed to the airport, but she refused to board a plane heading to Istanbul. She then reached out to police for help instead. She also asked the International Olympic Committee for assistance, the AP reported.

In a message distributed on social media, Tsimanouskaya said she "was put under pressure" and that she was being forced out of the country without her consent, the AP reported.