A Belarusian Olympic sprinter who said she faced punishment if she returned to her country departed Japan Wednesday on a flight bound for Austria.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was scheduled to land in Vienna Wednesday afternoon. She is then expected to travel on to Poland, where the government has offered her a humanitarian visa.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki posted Tuesday on Facebook that he had spoken with Tsimanouskaya and that she should be able to live in Poland without obstacles.
Polish authorities granted Tsimanouskaya a humanitarian visa to seek political asylum on Monday after she alleged her team’s officials were trying to force her to fly home to Belarus against her wishes.
Tsimanouskaya told officials in Tokyo she feared she would not be safe in Belarus from the autocratic government of President Alexander Lukashenko.
“They made it clear that upon return home I would definitely face some form of punishment,” she told The Associated Press in a Tuesday videocall interview. “There were also thinly disguised hints that more would await me.”
Her departure from Tokyo comes days after she provoked backlash in state-run media in Belarus by criticizing how officials were managing the Belarusian Olympians.
On her Instagram account, Tsimanouskaya said she was put on the country’s 4x400 relay team even though she has never raced in the event.
The Belarus National Olympic Committee has been led for more than 25 years by Lukashenko and his son, Viktor.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Lukashenko government was trying to force Tsimanouskaya to leave the Games “simply for exercising free speech.”
Some information in this report came from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.