Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskay has refused to get on a flight home after the Belarus Olympic Committee unexpectedly withdrew her from the competition and tried to get her on a flight home from Tokyo Haneda Airport on Sunday.
In a statement, Belarusian officials cited doctors advice regarding her “emotional, psychological state” for suddenly withdrawing Tsimanouskay.
Krystsina was due to compete in the women’s 200 metres and 4×400 relay race next week. It’s suspected that she was removed from the competition after she complained about her coaches in an Instagram video last week, saying she had never trained for the relay race and that she had been entered without her consent or knowledge.
Two members of the Belarusian Olympic team accompanied Krystsina to Haneda airport where she arrived around three hours before the departure of a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul. Once at the airport, Krystsina sought help from police officers and she was removed to the safety of an airport police station.
The Turkish Airlines flight departed without Krystsina onboard and officials from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs are making their way to the airport.
Speaking to Reuters, she said she did not want to return to Belarus. “I think I am safe,” Krystsina told Reuters via secure messaging app Telegram. “I am with the police”.
In another phone interview, she said: “I’m not afraid of being kicked out of the national team, I am afraid that in Belarus I might be imprisoned. Officials say the order to get rid of me came from the very top.”
Sources claim Krystsina is to seek asylum in either Austria or Germany.
The International Olympic Committee has opened an investigation and is seeking further information from the Belarusian team. In a video apparently recorded in Haneda airport, Krystsina says staff from the Belarus national committee were trying to forcibly repatriate her to Belarus.
It has been reported that when asked if she was afraid to return to Belarus, she replied “yes”. In the early hours of Monday morning, Krystsina was escorted out of Haneda airport to an unspecified “safe space”.
The Belarusian regime came under the spotlight in May after a Ryanair flight was forced to land in Minsk following a fake bomb threat so that an opposition journalist who was onboard could be arrested.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been in power since 1994 and won an election a landslide election last year that had been rejected by the West.
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