Belarusian sprinter Tsimanouskaya leaves Tokyo amid diplomatic tensions

Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was on his way to Poland on Wednesday after seeking refuge with that country’s diplomats, sparking a dramatic diplomatic turn at the Tokyo Olympics.

Her refusal to board a flight home late Sunday after saying she had been taken to the airport by her team against her will caused much drama during the Games. She sought protection at the embassy on Monday.

Poland has offered her a humanitarian visa.

Masked and dressed in blue jeans, a blue blouse and sunglasses, Tsimanouskaya arrived in a police escorted van at Narita airport east of the Japanese capital. She did not speak to several dozen waiting reporters and disappeared in an elevator to a VIP room, accompanied by several officials who rolled her bags.

Tsimanouskaya was said to be boarding LOT Polish Airlines Flight 80 bound for Warsaw, which was scheduled to depart Narita at 10:20 am (0120 GMT), according to people familiar with the situation.

The International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday it had launched a formal investigation into Tsimanouskaya’s case and expected a report from the Belarus team.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of unacceptable “transnational repression” in the case.

Tsimanouskaya, 24, was scheduled to compete in the women’s 200 meters on Monday, but said the Belarus head coach had come to her room in the athletes’ village on Sunday and told her to leave after criticizing team officials.

“I will not return to Belarus,” she told Reuters at the time.

The incident has drawn attention to Belarus, where police have cracked down on dissent following a wave of protests sparked last year by an election the opposition says was rigged to keep Lukashenko in power.

Belarusian authorities have labeled anti-government protesters as criminals or violent revolutionaries supported by the West, and have described the actions of their own law enforcement agencies as appropriate and necessary.

Vitaly Shishov, a Belarusian activist living in exile in Ukraine, was found hanged early Tuesday in a park near his home in Kiev, and Ukrainian police launched a murder investigation. He ran an organization that helps Belarusians flee persecution.

(REUTERS)

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