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Story of Kristina Tsimanouskaya - Face of Protest #16

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Kristina Tsimanouskaya is a Belarusian athlete who specializes in short-distance running. She has been competing for the Belarusian national track and field team since 2015 and is a Master of Sports International Class. She participated in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. On 1 August, a Belarusian delegation attempted to smuggle Kristina from Tokyo to Minsk.

Kristina first asserted herself in the 2014 season, when she won silver medals in the 100 and 200 meters races at the Belarusian Championships in Grodno. At the 2020 Belarus championships in Minsk she was the best in 100 and 200 meters races and fulfilled the eligibility criteria for participation in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. She was awarded the honorary title "Master of Sports of the Republic of Belarus International Class" for her outstanding achievements in sport.

Kristina Tsimanouskaya arrived at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to compete in the 100-meter and 200-meter races. As two Belarusian athletes were not allowed to compete in the 4×400-meter relay because of insufficient doping samples, the Belarusian sports management included Tsimanouskaya, who had never competed in the 400-meter relay at the professional level, in the list of competitors for that relay. On July 30, Tsimanouskaya posted on her Instagram that she had not been consulted on this decision and learnt about it afterwards. She criticized the sports management, which was trying to "correct its shoddy work at the expense of athletes". After the threatening phone calls, Kristina deleted the video criticizing the management.

On August 1, the Belarusian delegation suspended Tsimanouskaya from further participation in the Olympic Games "due to her emotional and psychological condition". However, Kristina herself stated that no examinations and diagnostics of her emotional and psychological state had been carried out. Then the leadership of the Belarusian delegation made an attempt to take Kristina from Tokyo to Minsk by force.

The National Anti-Crisis Management team and Pavel Latushka promptly responded to the events and established contacts with the leadership of the Polish Foreign Ministry, as well as communication with the Austrian Foreign Ministry to assist Kristina Tsimanouskaya in obtaining visa and international protection. The Polish Embassy in Tokyo, at the request of the NAM, stated its readiness to provide legal and consular assistance to Kristina Tsimanouskaya. The Polish Foreign Ministry instructed the Polish consul in Tokyo, with whom the Belarusian diaspora of Japan had established contact.

At the airport, the girl sought help from the Japanese police and the IOC. Later, a representative of the Japan Refugee Lawyers Association came to the airport and Kristina was transported from the Tokyo airport to safety.

The deputy director of the Eastern Department of the Polish Foreign Ministry, Malgorzata Kazmerska, in a conversation with Pavel Latushka confirmed that Kristina Tsimanouskaya had been issued a Polish national visa.

At the moment, Kristina Tsimanouskaya is in the building of the Polish Embassy in Tokyo under the external guard of the Japanese police and the care of Polish diplomats. She will remain at the embassy until she departs for Warsaw. Kristina will be accompanied by the Polish Consul in Japan as she boards the plane. Kristina has been assisted by the Belarusian diaspora in Japan all along.

On August 2, it became known that Arseniy Zhdanevich, husband of Kristina Tsimanouskaya, had left Belarus and gone to Kiev for safety reasons.

We would like to point out that in mid-August 2020, Kristina Tsimanouskaya spoke out against violence and condemned the actions of law enforcement officers against peaceful protesters. Also, Kristina did not sign the pro-government letter of athletes, which was launched in support of representatives of the current Lukashenka regime.

Kristina Tsimanouskaya’s situation is an example of how any expressed discontent, any protest against the current regime leads to serious repression. In Kristina’s case, it was an attempt to have her forcibly removed to Minsk. As practice shows, in Minsk, she would have been detained and placed in a detention center facing criminal charges.