Tokyo / Warsaw (dpa) – In the case of Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanowskaja, the International Olympic Committee has set up a disciplinary committee.
This should prove the facts in the scandal surrounding the athlete’s alleged kidnapping from Tokyo, which was attempted by Belarusian authorities, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. The Belarus Athletics Head Coach and the Deputy Director of the National Training Center should have the primary responsibility. The two officials reportedly told Timanovskaya in Tokyo that she had to return to her homeland early due to critical comments on social media. The 24-year-old had turned to Japanese police at Haneda Airport and refused the return flight. Since then, she has been granted a humanitarian visa by Poland and has left the Olympic city. “As far as I know, she’s on her way to Poland,” Adams said.
According to media reports, Timanovskaya initially boarded the plane to Vienna at Narita Airport. It remained open whether she would then travel to Poland.
The athlete, who according to the Belarusian opposition should be forced to return to Minsk “by force”, also called for extensive investigations and possible punishments for the country’s athletics head coach before she left.
Timanovskaya called for an investigation
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.
In another interview, she reported further details in the newspaper “Bild” on Tuesday. The Belarus head coach told her she had 40 minutes to pack her things and drive to the airport. But she also emphasized that it was not about politics, but about the line-up of the sprint relay. “I only criticized the fact that our head coaches chose the relay team without consulting the athletes,” she said. “I never thought it could reach such proportions and become a political scandal.”
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.”
Timanovskaya wants to continue career
Timanowskaya was also in the Polish embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday. There she expects a flight to Poland, Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przdacz told the BBC. “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 she would not return. “It was very sudden. I only had an hour to pack my things.”