Poland gives visa to another Belarusian athlete critical of regime

Warsaw: Belarusian equestrian Olga Safronova has been given a humanitarian visa allowing her to live in Poland, Polish state news agency PAP reported on Sunday, after she was ostracised at home for speaking out against the Belarusian government.

Safronova follows Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, who defected to Poland last month after she said coaches had ordered her to fly home from the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Belarusian equestrian Olga SafronovaCredit:Wikicommons

Poland has also offered refuge to Belarus dissidents and critics of Lukashenko who are fleeing reprisals.

Belarus has been gripped by a sweeping crackdown on anti-government dissent following mass protests that erupted last year over a disputed election.

Poland has long been critical of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule and harboured many activists from Belarus.

Belarus, in retaliation, has allowed thousands of migrants to cross over its border with Poland in an attempt to destabilise the European Union nation.

Safronova headed to Poland after she was excluded from the Belarusian equestrian team shortly before the Tokyo Olympics, amidst allegations that one of her horses was suspected of doping.

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

Reuters could not independently verify the information.

Safronova then spoke out against Belarusian sports officials and President Lukashenko and was put on a list of traitors against the state of Belarus, PAP reported.

She now hopes to ride for Poland if she receives Polish citizenship, PAP said, citing her spokesman.

Her partner has also been given a visa to live in Poland, the news agency reported.

Tsimanouskaya, the runner, is now sponsored by Poland’s oil giant Orlen.

Tsimanouskaya says she feels safe and hopes to focus on how to keep up a world-class running career.

Reuters, AP

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