A Belarusian athlete who is at an impasse with his country entered the Polish embassy in Japan on Monday, a day after he refused to board a plane back to his homeland. He said he was forcibly taken to the airport by his team.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, will apply for asylum in Poland, said a member of the local Belarus community, with whom she was in contact. Polish consular officials did not respond to requests for confirmation or comment.
Earlier, Polish Foreign Ministry official Marcin Przydacz wrote on Twitter that Tsimanouskaya had been “offered a humanitarian visa and is free to pursue her sporting career in Poland if she has one.”
The runner got off in front of the embassy from an unmarked silver van around 5pm. He got out of the car with his team’s official suitcase, and then greeted two officers before entering the premises.
Two women, one of whom carried a red and white flag considered a symbol of the opposition in Belarus, came to the gates to support him.
A source at Ukraine’s interior ministry told Reuters that Tsimanouskaya’s husband, Arseni Zhdanevich, had entered Ukraine. It was not immediately clear if he would return to Poland to reunite with his wife.
In a heated diplomatic incident on the sidelines of the Olympics, Tsimanouskaya’s refusal to board the plane, which was first reported by Reuters, has highlighted the strife in Belarus, a former Soviet nation ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko.
The sprinter’s Olympic participation was cut short when he said he was taken to the airport to board a Turkish Airlines flight. Tsimanouskaya was supposed to take part in the 200 meters match on Monday (2/8).
He told a Reuters reporter via Telegram that the head coach of Belarus came to his room on Sunday at the athletes’ village and said he had to leave.
“The head coach came up to me and said there was an order from above to get me out,” he wrote in the message. “At 5pm they came to my room and asked me to pack and they took me to the airport.” But he refused to board the plane. “I’m not going back to Belarus,” he said.
The Belarus Olympic Committee said in a statement that coaches had decided to withdraw Tsimanouskaya from the Olympics on the advice of doctors regarding her “emotional, psychological state.”
Belarus’ head of athletics coach Yuri Moisevich told state television he “could see something was wrong with him. Tsimanouskaya is either aloof or doesn’t want to talk.”
Earlier on Monday, International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams said officials were scheduled to resume talks with Tsimanouskaya on Monday and the Olympic organizing body had requested a full report from Belarus’ Olympic committee.
The Japanese government said the athlete remained safe while the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizers and the IOC reviewed his wishes.
“Japan is coordinating with relevant parties and continues to take appropriate action,” said Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato. [uh/ab]