Belarus: Expert on whether Putin is 'backing' Lukashenko
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Sprinter Krystina Timanovskaya was ordered to fly home earlier than planned from the Tokyo games due to her ‘emotional state’, but the athlete claims she was removed from the team for different reasons. Ms Timanovskaya, 24, says she was removed from the Belarus national team due to criticising her coaches.
Her removal came after she complained on social media about being entered into the 4x400m relay race at short notice after some teammates were found to be ineligible to compete.
This led to her being criticised by the Belarussian state media at home, and her coaches ordering her to pack her bags and claim she was injured to the public.
As she was travelling to the airport to return to Belarus, she says she was warned by her grandmother: “Do not come back.”
Ms Timanovskaya told the BBC: “I couldn’t believe [that my grandmother would tell me not to come home but I asked, ‘Are you sure?’ And she said, ‘Yes. I’m sure. Do not come back.’
“That was the reason I went to the police.”
At the airport in Tokyo trying to avoid being taken home, Ms Timanovskaya showed officers a translated plea for help on her phone.
She was then given police protection before being removed from the airport and taken to the Polish embassy in Tokyo.
She travelled to Poland on Wednesday, where she is now staying on a humanitarian visa.
Her husband has also fled Belarus and has been awarded a visa for Poland, but her relatives remain in the country.
Ms Timanovskaya said she wanted to return to Belarus and focus on her sporting career.
But the dangerous situation in Belarus may well put the athlete’s plans on hold, as the regime strengthens its grip on the country.
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Why has Krystina Timanovskaya fled Belarus?
Belarus has been in a state of turmoil for some time following its 2020 sham election.
President Alexander Lukashenko – often referred to as ‘the last dictator in Europe’ – was restored to power in the botched election, sparking widespread protests and international condemnation.
Official figures gave Lukashenko 80 percent of the vote, the same as the last election in 2010.
The implausible result triggered a pushback by the electorate like never seen before.
Protests saw tens of thousands gather on the streets of Minsk, the eastern European country’s capital city, to demonstrate their anger and frustration at years of autocratic rule.
During the election, two opposition candidates were denied places on the ballot and Mr Lukashenko’s one opponent Svetlana Tikhanivskaya, the woman whom many have wanted to install as the new leader, was standing in the place of her arrested husband.
Critics of Belarus and its regime are consistently pushed down by President Lukashenko and his despot Government.
Many of those who took part in the protests were the country’s top athletes, who were detained, stripped of funding and cut from the national team for their participation.
In response, the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation was created, which has been fighting back against the dictator.
Dissenters in Belarus have made headline news across the world since the 2020 election, most recently with former challenger for the Belarusian presidency, Viktor Babaryko, being sentenced to 14 years in jail on what he says are false charges of taking bribes and money laundering.
In June, a Belarusian journalist and his partner were detained following a dramatic intervention when the plane they were travelling on was forced to land.
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