EXPLAINER: What is behind Belarus athlete's Olympics crisis?

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KYIV – A feud betwixt Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya and squad officials that prompted her to question refuge successful the European Union has again formed a spotlight connected the repressive situation successful the athlete's location country, an ex-Soviet federation wherever authorities person unleashed a relentless crackdown connected dissent.

Tsimanouskaya told The Associated Press connected Tuesday that the squad officials who hustled her to the airdrome and tried to nonstop her backmost to Belarus made it wide she would "definitely look immoderate signifier of punishment” aft she criticized the absorption of her squad connected societal media.

Here is simply a little look astatine the concern successful Belarus and the dangers faced by those who situation to situation Belarusian authorities.

POST-ELECTION CRACKDOWN

Belarus was rocked by months of protests triggered by President Alexander Lukashenko's re-election to a sixth word successful bureau successful an August 2020 ballot that the absorption and the West saw arsenic rigged.

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Belarusian authorities responded to the protests, the largest of which drew up to 200,000, with a monolithic clampdown that saw much than 35,000 radical arrested and thousands beaten by police. Leading absorption figures person been jailed oregon forced to permission the country.

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an robust fist for 27 years, has denounced his opponents arsenic overseas stooges and accused the U.S. and its allies of plotting to overthrow his government.

NO HOLDS BARRED

In a amusement of their determination to hunt down dissenters careless of costs, Belarusian authorities successful May diverted a Ryanair formation from Greece to Lithuania and ordered it to onshore successful the Belarusian superior of Minsk wherever they arrested a dissident writer who was connected board.

After his arrest, the journalist, Raman Pratasevich, appeared successful respective interviews connected authorities television, saying helium was afloat cooperating with investigators, pledging respect for Lukashenko and weeping. The absorption and the West denounced the TV interviews arsenic coerced.

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On Tuesday, a Belarusian activistic who ran a radical successful Ukraine that helped Belarusians fleeing persecution was recovered hanged successful a parkland successful the Ukrainian superior of Kyiv. Police said it launched a probe to analyse whether it was a termination oregon a execution made to look similar suicide.

WIDENING REPRESSIONS

After targeting absorption leaders and activists for months, Belarusian authorities person ramped up their crackdown successful caller weeks with hundreds of raids of offices and homes of autarkic journalists and activists.

Lukashenko denounced the activists arsenic “bandits and overseas agents” and vowed to proceed what helium called a “mopping-up operation” against them.

More than 50 NGOs are facing closure, including the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the biggest and astir respected media enactment successful the country, and the Belarusian PEN Center, an relation of writers led by Svetlana Alexievich, the victor of the 2015 Nobel Prize successful literature.

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Amid the crackdown, Belarus' European Union neighbors, Poland and Lithuania, person offered beardown enactment to protesters and provided refuge to those fleeing repression. Poland rapidly granted Tsimanouskaya a humanitarian visa. The jock boarded a level connected Wednesday greeting astatine Tokyo’s Narita International Airport that near the gross for Vienna, though it was not instantly wide if that would beryllium her last destination.

BELARUS PRESIDENT'S FOCUS ON SPORTS

Lukashenko, who has a keen involvement successful sports and served arsenic the caput of the Belarus National Olympic Committee for astir a quarter-century earlier handing implicit the station to his older lad successful February, has sternly warned the country’s Olympic athletes that they amended amusement precocious performance.

“If you spell determination similar tourists and bring thing back, you amended not instrumentality to the country,” Lukashenko said.

The Belarusian person and his lad some person been banned from the Tokyo Olympics by the International Olympic Committee, which investigated complaints from athletes that they faced reprisals and intimidation during the crackdown connected protests successful the country.

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“Lukashenko sees sports arsenic a showcase of his regime, helium wants to marque it radiance and helium considers immoderate failures and losses arsenic a stroke to his idiosyncratic estimation and authority,” said Valery Karbalevich, an autarkic Belarusian governmental analyst, adding that the Belarusian person “sees sports arsenic portion of the authorities ideology.”

The Belarusian president was furious erstwhile the crystal hockey satellite title was pulled distant from the state earlier this twelvemonth implicit the authorities’ crackdown connected protests.

“Lukashenko believes that Belarus is surrounded by enemies and sees immoderate disapproval arsenic portion of a Western conspiracy,” Karbalevich said. “That is wherefore helium saw the concern with Tsimanouskaya arsenic a caller onslaught by Western enemies and portion of a hybrid warfare against Belarus.”

ATHLETES TARGETED

Many Belarusian athletes person faced reprisals aft speaking retired against the authorities and voicing their enactment for protests.

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Belarus hoops prima Yelena Leuchanka, an ex-WNBA player, spent 15 days successful jailhouse successful October aft protesting peacefully against authorities. She aboriginal told the AP that situation conditions were awful, with nary blistery h2o and toilet successful her compartment and inmates forced to slumber connected metallic beds without mattresses.

Maria Shakuro, the skipper of the Belarus nationalist rugby squad and bronze medalist of the European Beach Rugby Championships, besides was sentenced to 10 days successful jailhouse for participating successful a peaceful protest.

The legendary Olympic hammer thrower, Vadim Devyatovsky, was dismissed successful September arsenic the caput of the country’s athletics federation aft a Facebook station captious of Lukashenko.

And Natalya Petrakova, 1 of the astir celebrated Belarussian handball players, was fired arsenic the elder manager of the women’s handball nationalist squad aft signing a missive of protest.

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation said that a full of 124 athletes person served jailhouse terms, faced dismissals oregon different repressive action.

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“The horrible concern successful the state is besides reflected successful sports,” said Vadim Krivosheyev, an activistic with the sports foundation. “All the powerfulness of the repressive instrumentality has been directed astatine athletes who dared to explicit their civic position. Sports successful Belarus is facing speedy degradation arsenic lone those athletes who are loyal (to the authorities) are allowed to perform."

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Follow AP's sum of Belarus astatine https://apnews.com/hub/belarus

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Isachenkov reported from Moscow.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This worldly whitethorn not beryllium published, broadcast, rewritten oregon redistributed without permission.

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