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Belarusian runner who defected at Tokyo Games says she feels safe in Poland

10.08.2021 06:45
Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who defected from her country's team at the Tokyo Olympics and fled to Warsaw last week, has said she feels safe in Poland.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya during a news conference in Warsaw last week.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya during a news conference in Warsaw last week.Photo: Alexei Pantsikov/TASS via PAP

Tsimanouskaya caused a diplomatic tussle earlier this month when she said that Belarusian officials had tried to put her on a plane back home by force after she publicly criticized her coaching team at the Games.

She refused to board the plane and instead flew to Warsaw on a humanitarian visa last Wednesday.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee has said the athlete's removal from the Games "was related to her poor mental and emotional state."

In her country, the runner has become the object of a witch-hunt by state-controlled media and severe criticism by strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, Polish news outlets have reported.

'I feel safe'

“I feel safe in Poland,” the Belarusian athlete said in an interview with Polish state news agency PAP on Monday. "I am not under any threat."

She added that she does not regret what she did in Tokyo and would still do the same thing even if she could "turn back time.”

Tsimanouskaya was last Friday joined in Poland by her husband, Arseni Zdanevich, who fled Belarus shortly after his wife said she would not be returning home.

"I feel really fine here. I can sleep and I can eat now,” she said in the interview, which was published on Monday.

Tsimanouskaya also said she was not considering applying for political asylum in Poland at this point, but wanted to stay in the country and focus on her sports career.

Asked how she sees her future in Poland and whether she is thinking of staying in the country for good, Tsimanouskaya said she did "not know" and that the most important thing is that she has been given a chance to continue her sports career.

'Poland is helping me a lot'

“Poland is helping me a lot,” Tsimaouskaya said.

Polish fuel giant PKN Orlen said last week it had offered to help Tsimanouskaya by making her part of a group of athletes it sponsors.

Tsimaouskaya was also quoted as saying in the interview that she does not rule out returning to Belarus in the future.

“I am convinced that now it is not safe for me to return to my country, but maybe in the future I could go back," she said, as quoted by the PAP news agency.

"It may take five or 10 years, or maybe just one year,” she added. "This is a really difficult question."

She also said she was worried about the safety of her parents back home in Belarus and hoping that nothing bad would happen to them.


Source: PAP