The athlete is sitting on the right, a lithe young woman with dyed-red streaks in her hair whose gaze drops to the floor when she’s not speaking. Her name is Kristina Timanovskaya, the Belarusian sprinter who flew from Tokyo to Warsaw via Vienna after being kicked off her country’s Olympics team. Now, she is a refugee and could face difficulties if she were to return home. Sitting on the left is Pavel Latushko, an exiled politician who stands in opposition to Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Timanovskaya insists that her case has nothing to do with politics, as though that might help her out of the situation in which she finds herself. But the man sitting next to her, along with the numerous microphones and cameras – not to mention the very fact that she is here – would indicate the contrary.
The case of Kristina Timanovskaya, who ran away from her minders instead of returning to the dictatorship back home, has caused a sensation. People around the world are watching as though it were a reprise of the Cold War: an athlete fleeing from subjugation to freedom; a dictatorship losing out in the competition with democracy.