Tokyo / Vienna (dpa) – Belarusian athlete Kristina Timanowskaja has arrived safely in Poland, fleeing the authoritarian state apparatus of ruler Alexander Lukashenko.
“Kristina Timanowskaja has landed safely in Warsaw,” Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacznach wrote after her arrival that evening. The 24-year-old thanks all the helpers. “Poland has once again shown solidarity and willingness to help.”
After a stopover in Vienna, the largely unknown sprinter until a few days ago flew to Warsaw with an aircraft of the Polish state airline LOT. Timanovskaya accuses Belarusian authorities of trying to kidnap her from the Tokyo Olympics. After public criticism of sports officials in her home country, she would have been in danger in Belarus, she says.
That is why she first sought protection from the Japanese police and then from the Polish embassy in Tokyo. Poland granted her – and later her husband – a humanitarian visa. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has set up a disciplinary committee to investigate the matter.
The Protassevich case caused a stir
The Belarusian opposition sees the Timanovskaya case as further evidence that Belarusians should also fear for their safety abroad. The case of blogger Roman Protassewitsch caused international commotion at the end of May. Protassevich was arrested after the airline he was on was forced to land in the Belarusian capital Minsk. The West subsequently imposed new sanctions on the largely isolated ex-Soviet republic.
Belarusian activist Vitaly Shishev, who had fled to Ukraine, was found hanged in a park in Kiev on Tuesday. Lukashenko’s opponents are sure that he was murdered. Ukrainian police are investigating the murder.
Lukashenko regime takes action against critics
Belarusian ruler Lukashenko has been cracking down on dissenters, the independent media and non-governmental organizations for months. As of yesterday, prominent opposition activist Maria Kolesnikova has been on trial in Minsk, who rose to fame about a year ago in a trio with Svetlana Tichanowskaya and Veronika Zepkalo for the presidential election, which were widely considered rigged. The 39-year-old, who worked as a cultural manager in Stuttgart for a long time, faces up to 12 years in prison.
Protests in Belarus in the months following the election left several dead, hundreds injured and thousands arrested. The EU no longer recognizes 66-year-old Lukashenko as president.