The Olympics are not supposed to be explicitly political. Yet they often become a stage for domestic and geopolitical battles. The latest example: Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya refused to fly back to her country Sunday, fearing for her safety after she criticized Belarusian Olympic officials.

Tsimanouskaya, 24, sought the protection of Japanese police at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport Sunday night after she says Belarusian Olympic authorities tried to force her to leave the Tokyo Games early and return to Belarus. The standoff at the airport stirred international outrage and concern for the Belarusian sprinter, and European countries quickly jumped to her aid. Poland has granted the athlete a humanitarian visa.

Belarus also drew international condemnation in recent months for forcing a commercial jet to land in May and arresting an opposition journalist onboard, and for allegedly weaponizing migrants to retaliate against European Union sanctions.

Tsimanouskaya told Belarusian sports news outlet Tribuna that the Belarus national team’s head coach told her that pressure to remove her from the Games came from “a higher level.” She told reporters she feared she would be put in jail if she returned to Belarus.

“I think that at the moment it is not safe for me in Belarus,” she told Tribuna.

The alleged effort to coerce Tsimanouskaya to fly home brought renewed attention to the climate of repression cultivated by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, often called “Europe’s last dictator.”

Here is what you need to know about the Belarusian leader.