Olympic Sprinter From Belarus Seeks Refuge in Japan, Fearing Jail at Home


A Belarusian sprinter mentioned Sunday that she was below the safety of the Japanese police after her nation’s Olympic Committee tried, however failed, to forcibly ship her residence after she criticized her coaches for registering her for the improper occasion.

The sprinter, Kristina Timanovskaya, introduced Sunday night on Instagram that she had sought safety in Japan as a result of she feared for her security in Belarus, the place the nation’s strongman chief, Aleksander G. Lukashenko, in energy for 27 years, has sought to stifle any dissent.

“I am afraid that in Belarus they might put me in jail,” Ms. Timanovskaya advised the unbiased Belarusian information portal Zerkalo.io. “I am not afraid that I will be fired or kicked out of the national team, I am worried about my safety. And I think that at the moment it is not safe for me in Belarus.”

The Belarusian National Olympic Committee, which is run by Mr. Lukashenko’s eldest son, Victor Lukashenko, mentioned on Sunday that it had withdrawn Ms. Timanovskaya from the Games due to her “emotional and psychological state” after consulting with a physician.

Ms. Timanovskaya denied being examined by any medical doctors and mentioned she was in good bodily and psychological well being. She mentioned she had been forcibly faraway from her nation’s crew as a result of “I spoke on my Instagram about the negligence of our coaches.”

In a video taken at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, she requested the International Olympic Committee for help.

In an announcement, the I.O.C. mentioned it had been in contact with Ms. Timanovskaya straight. She was at the Haneda Airport, the I.O.C. mentioned, and was accompanied by a member of Tokyo 2020.

“She has told us that she feels safe,” the assertion mentioned.

The I.O.C. and Tokyo 2020 will proceed conversations with Ms. Timanovskaya and the authorities in coming days, the assertion mentioned, to find out subsequent steps.

Kazuya Isozaki, a spokesman for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police division, would neither verify nor deny studies that Ms. Timanovskaya was in Japanese custody or had utilized for asylum at Haneda Airport.

“We don’t even know whether the police will take care of this or not,” Mr. Isozaki mentioned.

The Reuters information company mentioned that considered one of its photographers noticed Ms. Timanovskaya with the police at the airport and that she had mentioned, “I think I am safe.”

Ms. Timanovskaya, 24, was to take part in the Olympic Games for the primary time this summer season in the 200-meter dash. But she mentioned she was knowledgeable that she can be operating the 4×400-meter relay race as a result of some crew members had not taken sufficient antidoping assessments to qualify for the occasion.

“I’m outraged!” she advised Zerkalo.io from the airport. “After all, we came to the Olympic Games, and it is against all the rules to declare us for a distance event which we have never competed in our life. This is a complete disrespect for athletes,” she mentioned, describing the scenario as “complete chaos.”

She advised Zerkalo.io that on Sunday, her coaches and a consultant of the nationwide crew had come to her room and advised her to pack her issues. She mentioned she was advised that if she didn’t return, she would lose her place on the nationwide crew, be disadvantaged of labor and face “possibly other consequences.” She mentioned she was advised that the choice was not made by the athletic federation or the Ministry of Sports, “but at a higher level.”

“They said I need to be eliminated from the Olympics and returned home because I interfere with the team’s performance,” she advised Zerkalo.io.

Belarus was convulsed by protests following final August’s disputed presidential elections. Since then, President Lukashenko has indicated he won’t brook any dissent, jailing opposition politicians, critics, journalists and a lot of athletes who signed a petition in October condemning his authorities’s use of violence, based on the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation.

Pavel Slunkin, a former Belarusian diplomat who’s now with the European Council on Foreign Relations, mentioned Ms. Timanovskaya’s criticism was targeted on bureaucratic negligence and was not political.

“The regime persecutes everyone that publicly criticizes it,” he mentioned, including that he believed the president personally made the choice to convey Ms. Timanovskaya residence.

Mr. Lukashenko “likes sports so much and has been using sports victories for political reasons during all his rule,” Mr. Slunkin mentioned. “So when he is criticized by sportsmen or sportswomen, he really doesn’t take it well.”

The compelled removing of Ms. Timanovskaya from the Games is the newest in a string of worldwide incidents which have led Belarus to turn into more and more remoted internationally.

In May, the Belarusian authorities compelled down a RyanAir aircraft flying from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, that was carrying Roman Protasevich, a blogger who labored for an internet site that helped direct anti-government protesters final yr. After being detained, he was launched to accommodate arrest in late June.

Mr. Lukashenko has additionally been accused of punishing the European Union by flooding the 27-member bloc with migrants as a result of the E.U. imposed sanctions following the disputed election and the diversion of the RyanAir flight.

Belarus’s exiled opposition chief, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who claimed victory in final August’s elections earlier than fleeing to neighboring Lithuania, known as on the I.O.C. to tackle Ms. Timanovskaya’s case.

“She has a right to international protection & to continue participation in the @Olympics,” she wrote on Twitter.

Valerie Hopkins reported from Vienna. Tariq Panja, Motoko Rich and Makiko Inoue contributed reporting from Tokyo.





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