Belarusian Olympic Athlete To Seek Asylum With Germany Or Austria, Support Group Says.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus plans to seek asylum with Germany or Austria as early as August 2, her supporters say after the Olympic sprinter accused her coaches of trying to remove her from the Tokyo games after she criticized them on social media.

As of early August 2, Tsimanouskaya, 24, was still at Tokyo's Haneda airport, where she sought the protection of Japanese police a day earlier, saying she was being sent back to Belarus against her wishes.

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF) -- an organization that supports opposition athletes -- said Tsimanouskaya planned to request asylum in Germany or Austria as early as August 2.

Earlier, Tsimanouskaya said in a video message that she didn’t want to return to Belarus, and asked the IOC to “intervene.”

“I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent,” she said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it was monitoring the situation surrounding a Belarusian Olympic athlete who accused her coaches of trying to remove her from Tokyo after she criticized them on social media.

“The IOC … is looking into the situation and has asked the [the Belarus National Olympic Committee] for clarification,” the IOC said in a statement.

Meanwhile, neighboring Poland -- which has welcomed many opponents of the Belarusian government -- offered help to the Olympic sprinter.

Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz wrote on Twitter that Tsimanouskaya has been “offered a humanitarian visa and is free to pursue her sporting career in Poland if she so chooses.”

In the Czech Republic, Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek said on Twitter that he considered the situation around the Belarusian “to be scandalous. The Czech Republic is ready to help.“

“We are offering her a visa to enter the territory so that she can apply for international protection with us. Our embassy in Tokyo is also ready to help,” t he Czech diplomat added.

Tsimanouskaya was due to compete in the women's 200-meters event on August 2. But the athlete said her coaching staff ordered her to pack, before taking her to the airport.

Tsimanouskaya had alleged on social media that she was entered into the women’s 400-meter relay event on July 29 at short notice by Belarusian officials, after some team members were found to be ineligible to compete.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement that Tsimanouskaya withdrew from the Games on doctors' advice about her "emotional, psychological state.”

Several hours later, Tsimanouskaya said she was "safe" and under police protection in Japan. Her message was published on Telegram by the BSSF.

Aleksandr Opeikin, a spokesman for the BSSF, told AP that Tsimanouskaya has been targeted by supporters of the authoritarian government of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

“The campaign was quite serious and that was a clear signal that her life would be in danger in Belarus,” he said. Tsimanouskaya would ask for asylum from the Austrian embassy, Opeikin said.

The BSSF was founded last August by retired Belarusian swimmer Alyaksandra Herasimenia, as protests erupted in Belarus after the disputed re-election of Lukashenka.

The organization provides financial and legal help to Belarusian athletes targeted by the authorities after calling for an end to the violent police crackdown on demonstrators.

In January, nearly 350 Belarusian athletes and other members of the sports community signed an open letter calling for the presidential election to be annulled and for all "political prisoners" and those detained during mass demonstrations that followed to be released.

Lukashenka has been banned from the Tokyo Olympics by the IOC which investigated complaints from athletes that they faced reprisals and intimidation in fallout from the protests.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters


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