U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took to Twitter late Monday to criticize Belarus’ political regime for attempting to force an Olympic sprinter to return home after criticizing how officials were managing her team.
“The Lukashenka regime sought to commit another act of transnational repression: attempting to force Olympian Krystsyna Tsimanouskaya to leave simply for exercising free speech,” Blinken’s tweet read. “Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an affront to basic rights, and cannot be tolerated.
In May, Blinken issued a stark reprimand of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for allegedly ordering fighter jets to divert a commercial airliner carrying an opposition journalist. Blinken called on an “international investigation.” He said the U.S. stands with the people of Belarus.”
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Poland announced Monday that it granted a visa to Tsimanouskaya and an activist group said it purchased plane tickets for the runner. She drew the ire from the country’s state-run media after posting that she had been put on the 4×400 relay despite never having raced in the event.
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The Associated Press reported that she was abruptly taken to an airport in Tokyo, but appealed for help from the International Olympic Committee and police at the airport.
“What is important is that everyone who asks for protection, for refugee status, is afforded that opportunity. … The Japanese authorities have done what they can to protect her, and I think that is the most important part. No one should be forced to go home under threat or under force,” Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman from the U.N., said.
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The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation said the campaign against her was “quite serious and that was a clear signal that her life would be in danger in Belarus.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report