Olympics then exile: the Tsimanouskaya case

The Belarusian track and field athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has been granted a humanitarian visa by the Polish embassy in Tokyo. The sprinter had publicly criticised sports officials in her country, and was apparently to be flown home early against her will. At the airport she sought protection from the police. For Europe's press the episode sheds light on the repression and lack of prospects in Belarus.

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Polityka (PL) /

A crack in Lukashenka's image

Polityka takes a closer look at Minsk's relationship with sporting events:

“The Belarusian authorities allow athletes to take part in competitions - but they demand obedience in return. ... Sport is extremely important for the regime. It allows Belarus to maintain a presence on the international stage and brag about its successes at home. The Tsimanouskaya case is a clear crack in the image Lukashenka wants to convey to the world.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Still not safe yet

It is not yet certain that Tsimanouskaya will find safety after fleeing, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung points out:

“A country in the EU - presumably Poland - will grant her asylum. Her husband is said to be in Ukraine. It is to be hoped that both of them will be safe, but after the experiences of the past months it is unfortunately by no means certain. After all, Lukashenka has once again been exposed on the international stage. Since the hijacking of a Ryanair plane to Minsk whose passengers included an opposition blogger, we know how such things can end.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Giving up all hope

The Tsimanouskaya case puts the exodus of young, democracy-oriented people from Belarus in the spotlight, The Guardian writes:

“As the regime has consolidated its grip over the past year through mass arrests, torture and a crackdown across civil society, huge numbers of younger Belarusians have sought refuge in neighbouring Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland. The formerly booming tech sector in Minsk - an organisational hub for the protests - has been particularly badly hit. As many as 15,000 IT workers may have fled the country. Giving up, for now, on the prospect of democratic reform, many other young professionals have taken the same decision. Given that European and US sanctions continue to be ineffective and Vladimir Putin stands ready to offer assistance to the regime as required, who can blame them?”

Český rozhlas (CZ) /

Conditions like before 1989

Český rozhlas points to parallels between Belarus and the former Eastern Bloc:

“The case of the Belarusian Olympic athlete arouses memories of something we've been able to forget in our region over the past 30 years: what it's like to go into exile for political reasons for fear that you'll be punished for defying the regime. ... Lukashenka has brought Belarus to the point where we are close to conditions in the former socialist states. And that's the worst indictment of this president's rule.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

A race with the dicator

Rzeczpospolita wonders how long the media hype over this incident will last:

“Tsimanouskaya dreamed of representing her country. And she probably still dreams of a Belarus that would allow her to do so. Unfortunately, she and her compatriots will soon learn that the world's attention span for the dictator's deeds is short. Like a 200-metre sprint.”