Speed Reads

2020 Tokyo Games

Belarus again shows borders won't halt crackdown after attempt to force Olympian out of Tokyo

Try as the International Olympic Committe might, the Olympic Games can never be fully removed from geopolitics. That was abundantly clear on Sunday when Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was taken to the Tokyo airport against her will by representatives of the Belarusian national team after she criticized her coaches. A leaked audio recording reportedly reveals one of her coaches threatening her in response.

Tsimanouskaya refused to board the flight and reportedly told IOC representatives that she currently feels safe after Japanese police took her to a protected location. She reportedly said in an interview that she is afraid she may be imprisoned if she returns to Belarus, and that the order to remove her from Tokyo came "from the very top," indicating that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko or other high-ranking officials may have greenlit what has been described as a kidnapping. Unsurprisingly, Tsimanouskaya said she doesn't plan on returning home, and sources indicated she may seek asylum in Germany or Austria next week, while the Czech Republic has also offered to intervene. Details are still unclear, however.

What is clear is that this is another example of how Lukashenko's regime no longer appears to be shying away from cracking down on its own citizens beyond its borders, Franak Viačorka, a senior adviser to Belarus' opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, said. Earlier this year, Belarus' military intercepted a commercial flight which was carrying a prominent dissident, shocking much of the international community. It seems the Olympics are not enough to dissuade Minsk from such actions, either.