Belarus athlete enters Poland’s embassy in Tokyo after refusing to return home


Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya walked into a Polish embassy on Monday, a day after refusing to board a flight at a Tokyo airport.

The airport was the one the 24-year-old said she was taken to against her wishes by officials of her team.

Tsimanouskaya would seek asylum in Poland, said a member of the local Belarus community who was in touch with her.

Polish consular officials did not respond to requests for confirmation or comment.

Earlier, Polish foreign ministry official Marcin Przydacz had posted on Twitter that Tsimanouskaya has been “offered a humanitarian visa and is free to pursue her sports career in Poland if she so chooses.”

The sprinter pulled up in front of the embassy in an unmarked silver van about 5 p.m. local time (0800 GMT).

She stepped out with her official team luggage, and then greeted two officials before entering the premises.

Two women, one carrying the red and white flag considered the symbol of opposition in Belarus, came to the gates to support her.

In a brewing diplomatic incident on the sidelines of the Olympics, Tsimanouskaya’s refusal to board the plane, first reported by Reuters, has thrown a harsh spotlight on discord in Belarus.

The country is a former Soviet state that is run with a tight grip by President Alexander Lukashenko.

The sprinter was due to compete in the women’s 200 metres heats on Monday.

But she had her Games cut short when she said she was taken to the airport to board a Turkish Airlines flight.

She told a Reuters reporter via Telegram that the Belarusian head coach had turned up at her room on Sunday at the athletes village and told her she had to leave.

“The head coach came over to me and said there had been an order from above to remove me,” she wrote in the message.

“At 5 (p.m.), they came to my room and told me to pack and they took me to the airport.”