Poland refuge for 2nd Belarus athlete

·1-min read

Another athlete from Belarus has been given a humanitarian visa and refuge in Poland after being excluded from the country's Olympic team for criticising state authorities.

Dressage rider Olga Safronova - who was barred from going to the Tokyo Olympics - intends to train and compete with Poland's national equestrian team, opposition lawmaker Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska said on Sunday.

Safronova's problems began when she made angry comments about the authoritarian regime of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko while in Poland, when one of her horses was said to be limping and unfit for competition.

The comments led to Safronova's removal from the Belarusian team for Tokyo and she was named as a national enemy, Kluzik-Rostkowska told The Associated Press.

Safronova decided to seek refuge in Poland with her husband, and in mid-August they were issued humanitarian visas by Poland's embassy in Lviv, Ukraine, Kluzik-Rostkowska said.

Safronova received a visa after Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya also found shelter in Poland to avoid punishment at home after criticising team officials at the Tokyo Games.

After being barred from participating at Tokyo, the sprinter defied Belarusian authorities who tried to send her home and sought help from Japanese police at a Tokyo airport.

She eventually made her way to Poland, which issued her humanitarian visa.

Now sponsored by Poland's oil giant Orlen, Tsimanouskaya says she feels safe and hopes to focus on her athletics career.

Poland has a history of offering refuge to Belarus dissidents and critics of Lukashenko who are fleeing reprisals.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting