Tokyo / Vienna (dpa) – Belarusian athlete Kristina Timanowskaja arrived at the airport in Vienna in the afternoon from Tokyo. Authorities want to guard the 24-year-old athlete, who claims to have been kidnapped by Belarusian troops in Japan, during her brief layover.
“Security is a big problem,” said a spokesman for the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The athlete must be cared for in a special area at the airport until the onward flight to Warsaw. A press conference was not scheduled, the organization said.
Timanowskaya had previously canceled her original direct flight to Warsaw at the last minute. According to the Russian news agency Tass, she apparently wanted to avoid contact with journalists who had also booked the direct flight. According to the flight portal Flight-Radar, the Austrian Airlines plane flew around Belarusian territory.
The Olympic scandal surrounding the athlete has consequences. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has set up a disciplinary committee to investigate the matter. This should prove the facts in the case of the alleged attempted kidnapping of the athlete from Japan by Belarusian authorities, an International Olympic Committee spokesman said.
The 24-year-old had previously received a humanitarian visa from Poland. The Polish government assured her that she could continue her sports career there.
According to the athlete, Belarusian authorities wanted to force her to return to Minsk early on Sunday because she criticized sports officials. Timanovskaya turned to Japanese police at Haneda Airport and refused the return flight.
The IOC Disciplinary Committee should now focus on the Belarus (Belarus) athletics head coach and the deputy director of the national training center. The two officials are said to have informed Timanovskaya that she had to return to her homeland early because of her criticism of the top team’s decisions on social media.
Timanovskaya had said that the “picture” was not about politics. “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.”
Meanwhile, other athletes from Belarus do not want to return to their homeland. Jana Maximowa wrote on Instagram that she and her husband, the athlete Andrei Kravchenko, wanted to live in Germany. In Belarus you could lose your freedom and your life. “Here’s the chance to take a deep breath and be part of those fighting for the freedom of their people, their friends, relatives and loved ones,” she captioned a photo with her child.
The coach of the handball team “Vityas” in Minsk, Konstantin Yakowlev, also fled Belarus. He told Ukrainian news channel Ukrajina 24 that he was in Kiev for the second day. The Independent Sports Association activist was jailed for 15 days for intending to hold open workouts. These are considered “political gatherings” by the Belarusian authorities.
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”.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) criticized the Belarusian government as politically and morally bankrupt. Sports alliances such as Athleten Germany and Global Athlete campaigned for a ban on the Belarus Olympic Committee.
A decision on possible IOC sanctions during the Tokyo Games seems unlikely. “These things take time. We need to get to the bottom of the matter,” IOC spokesman Adams said on Tuesday.
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.