Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya wants for fear of the government not return to their homeland. Now she has traveled from Tokyo to Warsaw. She shouldn’t stay there alone.
Belarusian athlete Kristina Timanowskaja has arrived in Warsaw after a transfer stop in Vienna. The plane of the state airline LOT landed at the international Chopin airport in the Polish capital on Wednesday evening. The 24-year-old received a humanitarian visa in Poland. According to her own statements, after a conflict with sports officials at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, she was supposed to be brought back to her home country against her will, which is ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko in an authoritarian manner.
Timanovskaya and her husband, Arseni Sdanevich, will soon meet again in Warsaw. According to a government spokesman, Poland also issued him a humanitarian visa. Sdanevitsch had fled Belarus and was last in Ukraine. Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said it was up to Timanowskaja to decide whether she wanted to stay in Poland: “In a democracy, people decide for themselves about their future.”
The 24-year-old sprinter had changed her travel plans at the last minute. She had not flown directly from Tokyo to Poland, but via neutral Austria. Security reasons were presumed to be the reason for the measure. The IOC has meanwhile set up a disciplinary commission to clarify the Olympic scandal surrounding the sprinter.
Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has set up a disciplinary commission to investigate the case. This should establish the facts in the affair of the alleged kidnapping of the athlete from Japan by Belarusian authorities, said a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old had accused her delegation of an attempt at kidnapping. She was supposed to be forced to return to Belarus against her will after publicly criticizing the coaching team. Fearing sanctions in her home country, she turned to the police and the IOC and got help from the Polish embassy in Tokyo.
Kristina Timanowskaja: The Belarusian sprinter probably narrowly escaped being kidnapped. (Source: Martin Meissner / dpa)
“The coach told me I have 40 minutes”
“The Polish Foreign Ministry has already contacted me, and the Athletics Association has also promised me support. I very much hope that I will be safe in Poland,” said Timanowskaja of “Bild”. Her case had sparked a political scandal. It is still uncertain what the consequences of the Belarusian National Olympic Committee will be. Athletes’ associations had called for immediate exclusion during the Tokyo Games.
The athlete told how she experienced the incident: “Our head coach came into my room and said that I would no longer take part in the 200-meter sprint on Monday,” said Timanovskaya. “The coach told me that I have 40 minutes to pack my things and drive to the airport.”
House arrest or prison sentence?
The athlete felt that she was in an awkward position. She instinctively decided not to return to Belarus “because he (her coach, editor’s note) had already told me that evening that I might get into problems if I return”. Timanovskaya leaves open which problems they would have faced. Oppositionists suspect that the sportswoman would have threatened house arrest or even a prison sentence.
When he arrived at the airport, Timanovskaya wasted time with phone calls to get away from her Belarusian companions at the crucial moment and speak to Japanese police officers. They brought them to safety in an airport hotel.
International criticism of Belarus
Timanovskaya told the “Bild” that it was not about politics. “I only criticized the fact that our head coaches decided on the relay team without consulting the athletes,” she said. “I would never have thought that it could take on such proportions and become a political scandal.”
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sharply attacked the Belarusian leaders around ruler Alexander Lukashenko. He demanded that the “aggression of the Belarusian security services on Japanese territory” must meet with “resolute opposition from the international community”.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) criticized the government of Belarus as politically and morally bankrupt. Sports alliances such as Athleten Germany and Global Athlete campaigned for a ban on the Belarusian Olympic Committee.