Tokyo/Warsaw (dpa) – In the case of the alleged attempted kidnapping of Olympic sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya, calls for tough sanctions against Belarus are growing louder.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) opened a formal investigation on Tuesday, as athletes’ representatives demanded an immediate ban on Belarus’ NOK.
The athlete, who would be forced to return to Minsk “by force” according to the Belarusian opposition, also called for extensive investigations and possible punishments for the country’s head coach in athletics before leaving for the Polish asylum, which was scheduled for Wednesday. .
The 24-year-old demanded “to investigate the situation, who gave the order, who really made the decision that I can no longer participate,” she told the AP news agency in a video interview.
The death of a Belarusian activist, who was found hanged in a park near his residence in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, caused international outrage on Tuesday. Vitali Schischow hadn’t come back from jogging on Monday, according to the media he had felt persecuted.
Criticism of Belarus
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) strongly criticized the Belarusian government for the Timanovskaya case. “With the attempted kidnapping of Kristina Timanowskaja, the rulers in Minsk have shown that they despise their own athletes – and therefore the Olympic principles,” Maas told the Rheinische Post. The regime of ruler Alexander Lukashenko is politically and morally bankrupt.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sharply attacked Belarusian leaders around ruler Alexander Lukashenko. He demanded that the “aggression of the Belarusian security services on Japanese soil” would be met with “resolute resistance from the international community”.
He wants the humanitarian visa for the athlete to be understood as a signal. Poland will continue to support persecuted Belarusian oppositionists and the entire Belarusian people. “We won’t leave you alone,” Morawiecki said.
Timanovskaya was targeted by Belarusian authorities for criticizing sports officials in her home country. At Haneda Airport, she refused the return flight and turned to the Japanese police. “She is exhausted, scared, but very grateful for our help at this extremely difficult time in her sports career,” said Polish Ambassador to Japan, Pawel Milewski. On Tuesday, Milewski posted a joint photo, writing, “You’re fine.”
The IOC also claimed that Timanovskaya had said in several conversations that she felt “safe and protected”. The Belarus Olympic Committee is expected to take a position on the matter on Tuesday. “We need to establish all the facts and hear all concerned before taking any further action,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. Adams declined to say when the IOC would complete its investigation. “These things take time. We need to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
Alliances of athletes such as Athleten Germany and Global Athlete campaigned for a crackdown. “The IOC should immediately suspend the Belarus Olympic Committee and allow all athletes from Belarus to run as neutral athletes under the Olympic flag,” said Global Athlete General Director Rob Koehler of the Canadian TV channel CBC.
Belarus’ NOK has been out of favor with the IOC for some time. The ruler Lukashenko, who also led the NOK for a long time, and his son Viktor, who is now the head of the association, were banned from all Olympic activities, including the Tokyo Games.
The NOK leadership around the Lukashenkos did not adequately protect athletes from political discrimination within the country’s sports organizations, IOC chief Thomas Bach justified the sanctions last December. All financial donations to the NOK of Belarus have also been suspended for the time being.
Timanovskaya wants to continue career
Timanowskaya was also in the Polish embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday. There she expects the flight to Poland, said BBC deputy foreign minister Marcin Przdacz. “She is very welcome to continue her sports career on Polish soil,” he emphasized. That’s exactly what the sprinter intends to do. “I would really like to continue my sports career because I’m only 24 and had plans for at least two more Olympics,” she said.
At the moment, however, she is only concerned about her safety. Her husband was also apparently targeted by the Belarusian authorities. The spokesman for the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, Artyom Shevchenko, confirmed to the German news agency that he was now in Ukraine. Arseny Zdanevich told the AP news agency that he decided to leave Belarus when his wife told him they would not return. “It was very sudden. I only had an hour to pack my things.”
According to the IOC, it has contacted the National Olympic Committee of Poland to ask how to support Timanovskaya in the future. “Our number one priority is the safety of the athletes,” said IOC spokesman Adams. The IOC’s approach should encourage not only Belarusian athletes, but also all athletes that the umbrella organization will listen to their concerns with open ears.