Dissident Belarusian sprinter lands in Austria en route to Poland

Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya landed at Vienna airport on Wednesday afternoon after refusing to return home amid safety fears.

She is expected to travel to Warsaw after Poland issued her a humanitarian visa.

Tsimanouskaya had criticised Belarus sporting authorities on social media during the Tokyo Olympics for placing her in the 4×400 relay team without her approval.

She claimed her team tried to force her to return home to Belarus, where she fears reprisal from the government.

Tsimanouskaya flew on an Austrian Airlines flight which left Tokyo earlier on Wednesday and arrived in the Austrian capital at 3 pm local time. Initially, the 24 year-old had planned to travel by the Polish company LOT, but changed her itinerary last minute.

She was escorted away from the Vienna airport under police protection.

Speaking to AFP, a spokesperson for the Austrian ministry of foreign affairs said she is scheduled to “leave for Warsaw this evening.”

Earlier, Austria was cited as a possible host country for Tsimanouskaya. Her coach, Philipp Unfried, is from that country.

But, Vienna was hesitant given the fact that it is one of the main economic partners of Belarus, where four of its major companies are located.

However, Austria’s foreign affairs ministry said Tsimanouskaya “can count on Vienna’s support if she wished to apply for asylum,” and that the “decision rests on her”.

For its part, the Representatives of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation (BSSF), an organisation supporting athletes who face repression from Alexander Lukashenko regime, said it would welcome Tsimanouskaya upon her arrival in Warsaw, along with other Belarusian pro-democracy activists.

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