Europe would be honored to give asylum to Belarusian sprinter, says French minister

It would be an honor if Europe granted political asylum to Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said Monday.

Tsimanouskaya, who refused to board a flight after saying she had been taken to the airport by her team against her will, was “safe” in Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee said Monday.

“Political asylum – it would be an honor for Europe to do that,” Beaune told RFI radio.

The sprinter, who was scheduled to race Monday in the 200m heats at the Olympic Stadium, had her Games cut short when she said she was being taken to the airport to board a Turkish Airlines flight.

She told a Reuters reporter via Telegram that the Belarus head coach showed up in her room at the athletes’ village on Sunday and told her to leave.

“The head coach came to me and said there had been an order from above to remove me,” she wrote in the message. “At 5pm they came to my room and told me to pack and took me to the airport.”

But she refused to board, telling Reuters: “I will not return to Belarus.”

The Belarus Olympic Committee said in a statement that the coaches had decided to withdraw Tsimanouskaya from the Games on doctor’s advice about her “emotional, psychological state”.

Belarusian athletics head coach Yuri Moisevich told state television that he “saw that there was something wrong with her… She either shut up or wouldn’t talk.”

The IOC was set to continue talks with Tsimanouskaya on Monday, and the Olympic Games governing body had asked for a full report from the Belarus Olympic Committee, Adams said.

In response to some questions from journalists about what the IOC would do to ensure that other athletes in the village were protected, the IOC spokesperson said they were still gathering details about exactly what happened.

seek asylum

A member of the local Belarusian community, who had been in contact with the athlete throughout the night, told Reuters she had applied for asylum in Japan after lengthy talks with various officials.

The Japanese government said the athlete was kept safe while Tokyo 2020 organizers and the IOC checked her intentions.

“Japan is coordinating with relevant parties and will continue to take appropriate measures,” Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said.

Both Poland and the Czech Republic offered their help on Monday.

Polish Foreign Ministry official Marcin Przydacz wrote on Twitter that Tsimanouskaya “has been granted a humanitarian visa and is free to continue her sports career in Poland if she wishes”.

The Polish Olympic Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek said he found the situation surrounding the Belarusian “outrageous”.

“The Czech Republic stands ready to help,” he tweeted. “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.”

Tsimanouskaya’s refusal to board the plane, first reported by Reuters, highlighted dissension in Belarus, a former Soviet state governed by President Alexander Lukashenko.

On Monday, the IOC spokesman said it had taken a number of actions against Belarus’ Olympic Committee in the run-up to the Games following nationwide protests in the country.

In March, the IOC refused to recognize the election of Lukashenko’s son Viktor as head of the country’s Olympic Committee. Both father and son were not allowed to attend the Games in December.

( Jowharwith REUTERS)

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