Equestrian rider Olga Safronova has become the second Belarusian athlete to receive a humanitarian visa from Poland after she publicly criticised the Belarusian Government.
Shortly before the Tokyo Olympics Safronova was excluded from the equestrian team and fled to Poland with her husband in mid-August. Safronova has criticised President Alexander Lukashenko’s Government which has led to her being classified as a traitor against the state.
Now that Safronova and her husband have been issued with humanitarian visas by Poland the rider hopes that she can ride for Poland if she later receives citizenship. Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya also fled to Poland before the Olympics started as she criticised coaches on social media before being taken to an airport against her will and ordered to fly home.
Tsimanouskaya said she was forced to miss her 200m race as Belarusian officials attempted to “forcibly take me out of the country without my consent” but President Lukashenko has disputed these claims and says she has been “manipulated.”
Both Alexander and his son Viktor Lukashenko, who is the National Olympic Committee President, were banned from attending the Tokyo Games after the IOC found they had discriminated against athletes for political reasons and even imprisoned some who took part in anti-government protests. The IOC has not recognised Viktor Lukashenko’s election as President.