Olympian who fled Belarus now flees Ukraine

STORY: Herasimenia, a three-time Olympic medalist, found herself among thousands of Ukrainians massing at the border with Poland as Russian troops advanced on Kyiv.

On the second day of the Russian invasion last month, Herasimenia and her husband, Olympic swimmer Yauhen Tsurkin, scrambled to pack some belongings and set off on a 12-hour car ride to the Polish border with their young daughter and Herasimenia's mother.

"We've been running for a long time, since a year and a half ago with the events in Belarus after the elections," she said.

"I had that feeling, when we were standing by the forest near the Ukranian border, that though we left Belarus to be safe - we had practically come back to my border again and here we are absolutely helpless."

Herasimenia was among the elite athletes who fled Belarus in the wake of a crackdown against those who protested what they said was the fraudulent re-election of Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020.

Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has denied any wrongdoing.

Russia has used Belarusian territory to launch a multi-pronged invasion of Ukraine, where many Belarusians settled after escaping persecution at home. Moscow says it is conducting a "special military operation" to disarm and "denazify" Ukraine.