Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has been granted a Polish humanitarian visa, after refusing to return home out of fear for her safety.
By Donovan Martin Jr
On Sunday, August 1, 2021, 24-year-old Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was taken to the Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Belarus, her country of origin, demanded her return. However, Tsimanouskaya refused to board a plane, alleging that her team and country forced her to board the plane and she feared for her safety. To evade being sent home against her will, Tsimanouskaya requested the National Police Agency of Japan for protection. “I was put under pressure, and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent,” she said to the press.
The incident follows the tense political climate in Belarus. Many protests over the country’s lastest presidential election have spurred with the opposition stating that President Alexander Lukashenka was put in power illegally. Police response to protests has been brutality. Furthermore, many activists for the Belarusian people have been found dead including Vitaly Shishov, who was found hanging in a park.
Many nations, including Japan, The United States, and the European Union, expressed their support for Tsimanouskaya. US Secretary of State, Secretary Antony Blinken condemned Belarus, saying “The Lukashenka regime sought to commit another act of transnational repression: attempting to force Olympian Krystsyna Tsimanouskaya to leave simply for exercising free speech. Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an affront to basic rights, and cannot be tolerated.”
Poland, however, provided Tsimanouskaya with a visa to the country. The EU states that the attempt to capture Tsimanouskaya is further evidence of the “brutal repression” by the Belarusian president. She currently resides at the Polish embassy in Japan and will fly to Warsaw on Wednesday, August 4, 2021.
The International Olympic Committee has yet to take a stance on the issue, saying, “Japan is coordinating with relevant parties and continues to take appropriate action.” Regardless of what decision they arrive at, it is evident that the politics of Belarus are impeding on the social lives and sanctity of not just their athletes, but their citizens too.