Belarus Olympian on hunger strike to support political prisoners

Moscow, Apr 27 (EFE).- Olympic silver medalist Andrei Krauchanka said Tuesday that he was starting a hunger strike and offering one of his track and field medals for sale to show support for political prisoners held by the government of Belarus President Alexandr Lukashenko.

“I do not advise anyone to imitate me, but it is very difficult to digest the horrible Belarusian reality. May the force be with you,” he said in a Telegram post sent to Efe by the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation.

Krauchanka, who lost his law enforcement job and was axed from the national track and field team over his support for the anti-government protests denouncing alleged fraud in the 2020 presidential elections, was arrested Nov. 8.

“My family thought I was missing. For four days my lawyer had no information about where I was or what had happened to me,” he said, adding that he was denied food and clothing during 10 days of administrative detention.

The man who won the silver in decathlon at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing said that he contracted the coronavirus during his time in jail.

“It scares me that arrests have become routine in Belarus,” Krauchanka said. “Six months after my release, I remember every day that I spent (in prison). I know how hard it is for the relatives of political prisoners.”

He said that as a gesture of support for those prisoners, he decided to go on a hunger strike and put up for sale the gold medal in the heptathlon he won at the 2011 European Athletics Indoor Championships.

“It is really special for me, as I won it competing with a serious injury. It was painful, but now it hurts a hundred times more. That is also why I decided to announce a 10-day hunger strike in solidarity with political prisoners,” Krauchanka said.

The 35-year-old is one of more than 2,000 Belarusian athletes who signed an open letter to denounce the police crackdown on opposition to Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994. EFE


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