Fundraiser launches for Belarus Olympic exile’s move to Poland – as husband claims Lukashenko government has questioned her mother
Sprinter Timanovskaya will fly to Warsaw on Wednesday, according to the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, where she is expected to begin a new life after receiving a humanitarian visa following her high-profile scandal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The 24-year-old has made headlines worldwide since her criticism of her country's Olympic set-up led to her being told to leave her nation's squad at the games, taken to an airport in Japan and encouraged to take a flight back to Belarus, which she shunned by seeking the help of local police who took her to a safe space.
"Kristina really needs help with housing costs and accommodation," reads an appeal from the foundation, offering a website and email address through which backers can support the athlete.Also on rt.com ‘I don’t think I can ever go back to Belarus’: Timanovskaya ‘was afraid for life’ but will continue career, targets 2024 Olympics
"She will also need time to recover psychologically and return to sports. Solidarity is our strength. You can donate any amount for Kristina and her family."
One of those relatives is Timanovskaya's spouse, Arseniy Zdanevich, who has fled to Ukraine but is worried for the elderly parents the couple left behind.
“I will not hide it – there were and still are fears for my parents, for Kristina's parents," the fitness instructor, massage therapist and former hurdling contender for the Belarus national team told Tribuna.
"Now I keep in touch with them. They are very worried but nothing terrible has happened yet. The only thing is that Kristina's mother has already received a call from [Belarus president Alexander] Lukashenko’s administration, who asked some questions.
"I don't know the details of the conversation, but there was such a call. Am I afraid that someone will come to them? Of course, there is fear. Our parents are not young, I would not want to disturb them too much.
"But nothing can be ruled out. Although why should parents be held accountable for virtually nothing?"Also on rt.com ‘Affront to basic rights’: US officials wade into row surrounding Belarusian Olympic sprinter Timanovskaya as IOC demands answers
Zdanevich hastily packed his bags on Monday after watching the drama unfold the previous day, escalating from accounts that Timanovskaya was being forced to catch a flight to Belarus to a video address from the athlete, issued from Haneda international airport, calling for help from the International Olympic Committee.
"Like everyone else, I saw videos on social networks, then contacted my wife, who told me everything in detail," he said, expressing his "deep gratitude" to the foundation for their help after Timanovskaya had claimed that a lack of doping tests had prevented some athletes from travelling to the Olympics and complained that she had been added to a relay team without warning.
"I was in shock. How can you do this with a person? Kristina spoke out but I didn't even think that any consequences were possible. She did not say anything illegal in her videos, did not call for anything. She did not even insult officials or coaches.
"Why people reacted this way to criticism, I'm still surprised. Perhaps in this way the national team is trying to cover up their mistakes with doping tests.
"We hoped that the situation would somehow be safely resolved and that everything would not go as far as we see now. But when, on the state TV in Belarus, they began to speak negatively about my wife – they began to throw mud at her – then it became clear that nothing good was waiting for Kristina when she returned to Belarus; it would definitely not be the same as before."
Several countries were said to have offered his partner asylum. "We considered the option of a flight to Austria," said Zdanevich. "Kristina has a personal trainer there – he would definitely have helped us at first.Also on rt.com Disaffected Belarusian Olympic athlete Timanovskaya granted urgent visa by Poland after refusing to fly home under duress
"But Polish officials somehow contacted my wife, expressed their support for her and said that they were ready to help her and provide her with a visa and a chance to speak [with] their country. We made a decision to accept the help of Poland."
He remains "very angry" about the situation and says he gathered his possessions to leave Belarus "within half an hour."
"I grabbed quite a few things – the most important things for living abroad – and set off on the road. Fortunately, there are acquaintances in Kiev with whom I stayed, with whom I now live.Also on rt.com ‘We got signals something was going on’: Belarus coach says Timanovskaya ‘behaving strangely’ at Olympics before flight scandal
"But you know, even here I try not to go out on my own because, to be honest, there is a certain fear. And today, the director of the Second Territorial Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Vasil Zvarych, called me.
"He said that the prime minister of the country [Denys Shmyha] expressed his words of support to our family and promised that if I need any help, he is ready to help in solving any issues."
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, backed that gesture of support on Twitter.Also on rt.com 'It's embarrassing. It's brought a mark on our country': Belarusian Olympic long jumper hits out at Timanovskaya for Tokyo row
"We will provide the necessary assistance during his stay in Ukraine and will do everything to make him feel safe, despite the shocking news," he said. "I wish him and his wife to successfully get through these hard times."
Timanovskaya has always insisted that she was only focused on competing at 200m in her scheduled race on Monday, adding that she had excelled in warm-up runs.
“Upon arrival in Tokyo, I had a control training session in which I set two personal records," she told her thousands of followers on Instagram while awaiting asylum, emphasizing that she was "100 percent ready".
She is now targeting the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, where she could represent Poland.
"When Kristina gets to this country, when we are sure that she is safe, then we will agree on where and when we will meet," said Zdanevich. "I think we can solve everything within a month.
"Objectively, Poland is now defending Kristina as if she were a citizen of this country. That's worth a lot."
Zdanevich reflected that he is "not ready" to talk about going back to Belarus. "I would like to return, but [mainly] to see my parents, because we rarely meet with them," he says.
"They are aged people – they need some kind of help and support. But for now, the main question for us is that Kristina is safe and can safely fly to Poland."Also on rt.com ‘I am worried about my safety’: Athlete fears she will go to jail if she returns to Belarus, could seek asylum in Germany, Austria