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An athlete asks for protection in Tokyo not to return to Belarus

BarcelonaThe case is reminiscent of that of the Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who in 1961 applied for asylum in France at Paris airport to escape KGB agents who wanted to bring him back, early, to the Soviet Union. Now the protagonist is called Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, it is the year 2021 and the context is the Tokyo Olympics and the Belarusian regime of Alexander Lukashenko, precisely a nostalgic of the years of Soviet splendor.

This Sunday, Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian athlete who was participating in the Olympic Games, has asked, from Tokyo airport, for protection from the Japanese authorities to avoid being returned to her country. “I will not return to Belarus,” said the athlete, who added: “I ask the International Olympic Committee to help me, they have pressured me and they are trying to leave Japan without my consent.” The athlete alleges that the Belarusian Olympic Committee, led by Viktor Lukashenko, the president’s son, wants to force her to return early after she criticized and complained about her national coaches through a video posted on Instagram. Tsimanouskaya believes his freedom and security are in danger if he returns to Minsk.

Specifically, the athlete criticized that she had been forced to participate in the 4×400 meter relay races, when initially she had to participate only in the 100 and 200 meter events. But the fact that the Belarusian Athletics Federation did not have enough anti-doping tests for the rest of the athletes forced the coaches to enroll Tsimanouskaya in these modalities as well. “Why do we have to be victims of your mistakes? It’s arbitrary and they’ve done it all behind us,” he said on Instagram.

Tsimanouskaya, 24, has also denounced the official version released by the Belarus Olympic Committee as a lie. According to a statement from the organization, the athlete has had to suspend his participation in the Games “by decision of the doctors, due to his emotional and psychological state.” From the airport, the young woman has explained her version: her coaches went to her room, after posting her video on Instagram, to tell her to pack because she had to return to the European country. “The first coach told me I had to do it, that there was an order from above for me to go,” the athlete explained.

The image of the young woman, surrounded by Japanese police, has gone viral on the networks, where Tsimanouskaya has received several samples of support. Even from political figures, such as the current Prime Minister of Slovenia, the populist Janez Jansa who, through a tweet, has declared that the sprinter was welcome in the Slovenian country.

“I’m scared to come back”

After hours of uncertainty, the plane Tsimanouskaya had to travel with left Tokyo without her on board. A spokesman for the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation, a group that supports athletes imprisoned or marginalized for their political views, said Tsimanouskaya was “being transported to a safe place” and would be in contact with European diplomats. Later, it was the sprinter herself who confirmed that she was “okay” and that they were deciding where to spend the night. Tsimanouskaya, however, reiterates a slogan: “I am not afraid of being expelled from the national team. I’m afraid to go back to Belarus and be arrested. “

And it is that the persecution and arrests of opponents are on the agenda in Lukashenko’s Belarus, and more so after the wave of protests that took place last summer following the elections that gave him the victory. and that they were considered the result of electoral fraud by a significant portion of the population.

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