DISINFO: The asylum request of Belarusian athlete Tsimanouskaya is opportunistic and nonsense
The Olympic Committee announced that Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was withdrawing from the Tokyo Games "due to her psycho-emotional state." The media, and the athlete herself, argued that her decision was the result of criticism of her on social networks to the authorities of the Belarusian team for having chosen her as a substitute for teammates suspended in the 4х400 meter relays. Upon being taken to the Tokyo airport by those responsible for the Belarusian delegation to the Games, Tsimanouskaya appealed to the Japanese police for help, claiming that she was being forced to leave Tokyo. And after raising the stakes by stating that she planned to seek asylum in a European country and requested the intervention of the International Olympic Committee, stating that she would not return to Belarus because she feared for her life, she was surprised that the show had become a political scandal. That is, she asks for political asylum because she fears for her life, and is apparently shocked at the repercussions.
The reality is that this lady has said what she wanted on social networks, she has criticised her country, her coach. And when she was going to return to her country -because like all the athletes who are in the Tokyo Games, everyone of all nationalities has a one-way ticket and a return ticket when the games finish, then, instead of returning, she requested political asylum.
The refuge for so-called humanitarian reasons is designed for opponents of governments that in turn do not get along with Washington, for example from Cuba, Venezuela, Russia or Iran. In these countries, opposition members know that once they go into exile they have a house, salary, media coverage. They have all the conditions to leave their country, to emigrate under the pretext of political persecution.
This disinformation article is an attempt to discredit Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, by claiming that her asylum request is opportunistic and that there was no real reason for her to do it.
The events surrounding Tsimanouskaya’s defection didn’t happen as relayed in this disinformation story. On 30 July, Tsimanouskaya posted an Instagram post criticising that Belarusian authorities had registered her in a 400 metres relay race without her consent. Though this criticism wasn’t openly political, the reaction was harsh because, according to research by Amnesty International, sport is particularly important for Belarusian autocratic leader Alexander Lukashenka. Belarusian authorities prepared to forcibly return Tsimanouskaya, who only then requested asylum at the Polish Embassy in Tokyo.
According to the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF), an organisation that helps Belarusian dissident athletes, there are grounds to think that Tsimanouskaya would have been subject to serious retaliation if she had been sent back to her country. Contrary to the claim, her attempted return wasn’t a regular one. After her posts in Instagram, she was expelled from the Belarusian Olympic Team, who claimed that she couldn’t compete due to her “psychological and emotional state”. She hadn’t taken part yet in the Olympic competition she had trained for and of which she hadn’t voluntarily withdrew, as she explained in another post. On 6 August, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revoked the accreditation of two Belarusian coaches over their alleged participation in Tsimanouskaya’s attempted forced return.
See other examples of similar disinformation narratives in our database, such as claims that the forced landing of a Ryanair plane could be a provocation of the British special services; that Raman Pratasevich admitted his role in the plot to overthrow Lukashenka by force; that the European Union is planning an international court for Lukashenka; that Angela Merkel is the handler of Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanousakya; that the EU reaction to Lukashenka’s victory is an example of Western double standards; that the same lack of democracy and repression is present in EU countries that criticize them in Minsk; or that protests in Belarus are part of a “fire belt” to encircle Russia.
This disinformation message appeared in the same article as the claim that “A death in Kyiv, a defection in Tokyo and refugees in Lithuania may all be setups against Belarus”.