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More Belarusian Athletes Spurn Homeland In Shadow Of Olympic Scandal

Yana Maksimava competes in the women's pentathlon shot put at the 2017 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade.

Belarusian heptathlete Yana Maksimava says she and her Olympic-medalist husband have decided to stay in Germany with their child as the crackdown on pro-democracy groups and government critics continues in Belarus.

Maksimova's husband, Andrey Krauchanka, holds the Belarusian national record in the decathlon and won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Maksimava said on Instagram on August 3 in connection with Belarus's worsening situation and international isolation that "now one can lose not only his or her freedom, but life."

Her announcement came as a fellow Belarusian, Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, scrambled to avoid being repatriated from Tokyo and reports emerged from Ukraine of a murder investigation after an exiled Belarusian regime critic was found dead in Kyiv.

"It is possible to breathe freely here and be one of those who is fighting for the liberty of their people, relatives, and loved ones; we will prevail for sure," Maksimava, who was born in Soviet-era Vilnius, wrote.

Tsimanouskaya is currently seeking asylum in Poland after reportedly refusing to be forced aboard a plane for Minsk by Belarusian national team officials at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Andrey Krauchanka competes at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich in 2014.
Andrey Krauchanka competes at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich in 2014.

Twenty-six-year-old Belarusian activist Vital Shyshou was found hanged in a park near his home in Kyiv on August 3 after going missing a day earlier. Ukrainian police and friends from the Kyiv-based organization he runs to help persecuted Belarusians said he showed signs of having been beaten.

That Olympic drama and Shyshou's death have cast further light on Alyaksandr Lukashenka's ruthless crackdown since protests erupted after he asserted victory in a presidential election in August 2020 that the opposition and international community say was fraudulent.

Meanwhile, the Nasha Niva newspaper reported on August 3 on its Telegram channel that a coach of the Vitsyaz handball club in the Belarusian capital has fled Minsk for Ukraine.

In June, the coach, Kanstantsin Yakauleu, was arrested and held for 15 days for taking part in an unsanctioned anti-government rally.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other outside authorities are investigating Tsimanouskaya's claims that she was in danger after running afoul of Belarusian officials for criticizing them for gaffes at the games.

Tsimanouskaya was granted a humanitarian visa by Polish authorities after saying she feared jail if she returned to Belarus, and her Belarusian husband reportedly fled the country to eventually join her.