Belarus sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya arrives in Poland amid personal safety concerns

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Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya arrived in Warsaw on Wednesday evening and met with her husband on Thursday, days after refusing national team orders to fly home amid concerns for her safety.

Driving the news: The 24-year-old Olympian received a humanitarian visa from Poland after deciding to defect from her home country when she received a phone call from her grandmother telling her not to return, Reuters reported.

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  • "I did not know he was leaving Belarus," Tsimanouskaya told Reuters of her husband, Arseni Zhdanevich, who traveled to Ukraine while Tsimanouskaya sought sanctuary at the Polish embassy in Tokyo. "My grandma or mother told me. He called me when he was already on the way."

  • "He said that he and our parents decided that he must leave too. And he quickly packed some things and left," she added.

The big picture: Belarus is in the midst of a political crisis, with leader Alexander Lukashenko cracking down on dissidents. Many critics have been detained or have fled the country.

  • Belarus officials took Tsimanouskaya to Tokyo's Haneda airport on Sunday following her criticism of team coaches.

  • She told AP earlier in the week that officials from her country made it clear that she "would definitely face some form of punishment" if she returned home.

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