Tokyo (AP) – Excitement over a Belarusian athlete at the Olympics: Opposition says Kristina Timanovskaya should be kidnapped from Tokyo by authoritarian authorities in her country.
After publicly criticizing Belarusian sports officials for flying out of Japan against her will, the 24-year-old said in a video published Sunday by the Belarusian opposition athlete association Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF). The BSSF spoke of an attempted “violent” exit.
As pictures and reports from independent Belarusian media show, it had already been taken to Tokyo Airport. Numerous journalists gathered there that evening. Timanovskaya later told the BSSF that she was now under the protection of the Japanese police, to whom she had turned at the airport: “I am safe now.” They are now looking for a place to sleep for the night, explains the young woman who was previously housed in the Olympic village.
The Belarus Olympic Committee (NOK) had previously stated on Telegram that the athlete had been examined by a doctor and would not participate in further competitions because of her “emotional and psychological state”. Timanovskaya described this on Instagram as a “lie”. In an interview with the radio station Euroradio, she said: “You just told me to pack my things and fly home.”
The media reported that the athlete had already been advised on the spot by a lawyer specializing in refugee law. According to the BSSF, Timanovskaya wants to apply for asylum in Europe.
When asked, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was monitoring the matter and asked NOK for clarification. Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya welcomed the rapid IOC response. “It is important to investigate NOK’s violations of athletes’ rights,” she wrote on Twitter.
The runner should have started on Monday in the run-up over 200 meters. She had previously criticized sports officials in her country. The athlete suspected that other Belarusian athletes would not be able to participate because not enough negative doping samples had been submitted for them.
Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarusian power apparatus has repeatedly cracked down on critics and dissenters. Most recently, there have been raids against independent media and non-governmental organizations in which several people have been arrested. The EU has stopped recognizing Lukashenko, who has been repeatedly criticized as Europe’s “last dictator”, as head of state since the presidential elections, which were widely regarded as rigged, about a year ago. Protests in the months following the election left several dead, hundreds injured and thousands arrested.