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Poland welcomes second Belarusian athlete fleeing persecution

Olga-Safronova-belarus-Poland

Warsaw, Poland – Poland has granted a humanitarian visa to Belarusian equestrian Olga Safranova, recently excluded from her country’s team at the Tokyo Olympics after criticizing state authorities.

Polish opposition lawmaker Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska announced on Sunday that Ms. Safranova has been given refuge in Poland, and that she intends to train and compete for her new adoptive country.

Both her and her husband received a humanitarian visa from Poland’s consulate in Lviv, in neighbouring Ukraine, and have since moved to Poland – along with three of her horses.

Reports also suggest she could apply for Polish citizenship, without renouncing her Belarusian nationality.

The Belarusian dressage rider was barred from competing in the Tokyo Olympics this year after criticizing the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko amid claims her horse was unfit for the competition. She was subsequently added on the regime’s list of “traitors of the motherland”, which includes more than 40 Belarusian athletes.

“If you end up on this list, you cannot work or pursue your sports career,” Safranova told the Polish news agency PAP. “If I had not left Belarus, it would have been dangerous for me.”

Tests performed by veterinarians in Poland found nothing wrong with the horse.

The young equestrian becomes the second high-profile Belarusian athlete in recent weeks to be granted refuge and protection in Poland, where many dissidents and critics of the regime of Alexander Lukashenko have fled over the past year.

Last month, sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya, who criticized her team’s officials on social media during this year’s Olympics, was also granted a humanitarian visa to Poland after Belarusian officials tried to force her on a place back to Minsk from Tokyo.

She has now also been offered police protection in Poland, and recently declared she was ready to compete under Polish colours in future competitions.