Why a Belarusian Olympic sprinter refused to fly home – The Guardian

When the Belarus sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya criticised her coaches for entering her ‘behind [her] back’ in the 4x400m relay event at the Tokyo Olympics, she set off a chain of events that quickly went beyond her control. On Sunday, she was removed from the team and driven to the airport by officials. But Tsimanouskaya refused to board the flight back to Minsk and sought Japanese police protection.

The Guardian’s Andrew Roth tells Rachel Humphreys that this sporting disagreement quickly became political and Tsimanouskaya had little option but to seek refuge outside of Belarus. Now she has flown from Tokyo to Vienna after being granted humanitarian assistance by Poland. Her husband, Arseniy Zdanevich, fled Belarus for Ukraine on Sunday.

The incident in Tokyo made global headlines and was followed this week by news that Vitaly Shishov, the head of a Kyiv-based non-profit organisation that helps Belarusians fleeing persecution, had been found dead in a park in the Ukrainian capital. There are suspicions that he may have been murdered.

On Tuesday Boris Johnson met the Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to tell her the UK is on the side of those trying to bring down the tyrannical regime led by Alexander Lukashenko.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus reacts after competing in a race. (Photograph: Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters)

Photograph: Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters

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