Belarus sprinter Krystina Timanovskaya arrives in Poland

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image source, Reuters
image captionKrystina Timanovskaya boarded a flight to Vienna

A Belarusian athlete who refused orders to fly home early from the Olympics has arrived in Poland, where she has been given a humanitarian visa.

Krystina Timanovskaya, 24, left Tokyo earlier on Wednesday.

The row started after she criticised coaches after being entered into a race at short notice after some teammates were found to be ineligible to compete.

She told the BBC her actions were not a political protest. "I love my country and I didn't betray my country."

"This is about the mistakes that have been made by our officials at the Olympics," the sprinter told the BBC's Newshour.

The athlete made a stop-over in the Austrian capital, Vienna, before boarding the flight for the last leg of the journey.

An Austrian official said Ms Timanovskaya was tired and concerned for her future, but doing well under the circumstances.

The athlete voiced fears for her safety after she was forced to pack her belongings and driven to Tokyo's Haneda airport on Sunday.

She was given police protection before being moved to the Polish embassy in Tokyo, where she stayed until travelling to Narita airport on Wednesday.

She had been due to fly directly to Warsaw but a Polish government source told Reuters news agency that the plan was changed after details of her journey became public, prompting concerns about her privacy and safety.

A number of journalists were said to have booked seats on the direct flight.

media captionKrystina Timanovskaya: "When it's safe, I want to return home"

Belarus says she was removed from the national team because of her emotional state. But speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, Ms Timanovskaya said she did not suffer from any mental health issues and had not had any conversations with doctors at the Olympic village.

She said she was surprised when team officials told her she was leaving the Games because she "didn't say anything political", adding that she would like to return to Belarus "when I know that it's safe... maybe I'll only be able to return after five or 10 years".

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has launched a formal investigation into allegations that Belarus attempted to force her to return home. It has also requested a report on the incident from the Belarus National Olympic Committee.

The athlete's husband, Arseniy Zdanevich, has since fled Belarus and is currently in Ukraine. He has also been given a visa for Poland.

He told the BBC's Ukrainian service that the couple had never been involved in politics and would return to Belarus if they did not face criminal charges.

image source, Getty Images
image captionA car believed to be carrying the sprinter left the Polish embassy in Tokyo on Wednesday

The incident has again put the spotlight on Belarus, which has been ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994. Last year, nationwide protests over his disputed re-election were violently repressed by the security forces.

Some of those who joined the demonstrations were also national-level athletes, who were stripped of funding, cut from national teams and detained.

Separately on Tuesday, the head of an organisation helping Belarusians fleeing abroad was found dead near his home in neighbouring Ukraine. Vitaly Shishov had reportedly been followed recently.

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