Another Belarusian sportswoman finds refuge in Poland

Bjorn Larsson Rosvall/PAP/EPA

Olga Safronova, who was excluded from the Belarusian equestrian team at the Tokyo Olympics, is another sportswoman from that country, after Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who has found shelter in Poland, PAP has learnt.

In August, Belarusian runner Tsimanouskaya refused to board a plane to Belarus in Tokyo after being expelled from the Belarusian Olympic squad for critical remarks about country's sports officials. She fled to Warsaw where she was granted a Polish humanitarian visa.

Safronova's plenipotentary Tomasz Wilinski told PAP that originally Safronova was selected to represent the country at the Tokyo Games but was dropped after one of her horses was suspected of having been doped. Later, she spoke critically about both the country's sports officials and President Alexander Lukashenko.

As she was in Poland at the time, anti-doping tests carried out on the horse here did not confirm the allegations.

In the meantime, however, she was added to the Belarusian list of "traitors of the motherland", which includes over 40 Belarusian athletes. Those finding themselves on the list are denied employment and are laid off if they are already employed.

Safronova then asked the Polish authorities to grant her and her partner humanitarian visas. As her partner was in Belarus, he travelled to Lviv in Ukraine via Turkey, where he obtained a visa at the Polish consulate. A decision was made to bring two additional horses for Safronova from Belarus, which was not possible until Saturday.

Wilinski has told PAP that the matter had not been publicised so far, so that it could be successfully dealt with. He said that Safronova hopes she would be able to continue her sporting career in Poland.

"We want to obtain permission to compete under a neutral flag," he said.

He added that Safronova will apply for Polish citizenship, while not renouncing Belarusian citizenship. If she receives it, she would like to represent Poland.

According to Wilinski, the Polish Equestrian Federation is very much interested in cooperating with the Belarusian sportswoman.