Belarus sprinter who took refuge in Poland tells compatriots ‘not to be afraid’

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has arrived in Poland under diplomatic protection after seeking help in Japanese airport

A Belarusian sprinter who took refuge in the Polish embassy to avoid being bundled on a plane back to Minsk has spoken out about her dramatic experience, telling Belarusians “not to be afraid and, if they’re under pressure, speak out”.

In her first press conference from Poland, where she arrived under diplomatic protection this week, the Olympic athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she had decided not to return to Belarus after her grandmother told her by telephone that she had been slammed on television as a traitor and called “mentally ill” for criticising her coaches’ “negligence”.

Related: Saga of sprinter shows nothing in Belarus is outside politics

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