Monday briefing: Belarus athlete ‘under police protection’

·7 min read
<span>Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

Top story: ‘I will not return to Belarus’

Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories this morning.

The Belarus athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who alleges she was taken against her will by team officials to Tokyo airport, is being protected by police and the UN Human Rights Commission are also involved, the International Olympic Committee confirmed this morning. Tsimanouskaya, who spent the night at a hotel at Haneda international airport, is reportedly seeking asylum from the country’s oppressive regime. She claims her criticisms of the national team’s coaches led to her being dropped from the team and sent home. Tsimanouskaya, who was due to compete in the women’s 200m today, said she did not plan to return to Belarus. “I will not return to Belarus,” the 24-year-old athlete said in a message over Telegram, adding that she had been removed from the team due “to the fact that I spoke on my Instagram about the negligence of our coaches”. The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation said Tsimanouskaya was planning to seek asylum in Germany or Austria. Poland and the Czech Republic have already offered her a safe haven.

In the actual action, Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico dominated a top-notch field to win the women’s 100m hurdles gold overnight, while Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece won the men’s long jump on countback in echoes of Sunday’s dramatic shared high jump gold. Elsewhere, Team GB show jumpers and sailors are going for gold this morning, while the action gets under way at the velodrome with the team sprint and team pursuit qualifying races. Follow it all at our live blog, and you can also find out what to expect later with our interactive guide.

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Poverty warning – Boris Johnson faces another backbench rebellion over the Treasury’s spending this autumn as a high-profile Tory MP hit out at “intolerable” levels of hunger and poverty in his affluent home counties constituency. Steve Baker, a leading Brexiter and MP for Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, has urged ministers to abandon plans to cut universal credit because people in constituencies such as his had been “tipped over the edge” financially by the pandemic. Even though Wycombe is one of England’s most affluent areas, it has been rated the UK’s No 1 hotspot for hunger and food insecurity.

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UK ‘out of step’ – Rishi Sunak has thrown his weight behind calls for the UK’s coronavirus quarantine policy to be changed in time for greater freedom of movement in the final weeks of the school holidays. Although fully vaccinated travellers from England no longer need to isolate after returning from amber-list countries, the industry is still being affected by confusion about last-minute changes to the rules. The chancellor says the UK is “out of step” with other countries, but scientists say it’s too soon to lift the quarantine rules. Ministers meet on Thursday to consider any further changes. No traces of coronavirus were found in tests at four major railway stations and on intercity train services in England, Network Rail has said. In China, millions of people are being tested as the authorities battle to contain the country’s worst outbreak in months. The Australian state of Queensland has extended its lockdown until Sunday as its outbreak widens.

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Iran blamed – The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has said it is “highly likely” that Iran carried out the drone attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman last week in which a Briton and a Romanian died. Raab said the attack on the Israeli-managed ship Mercer Street was “deliberate, targeted, and a clear violation of international law by Iran”. The US and Israel also blamed Iran for the incident.

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‘We want to be a government’ – Angela Rayner says Labour’s new policies on employment rights and flexible working will pioneer a “cultural shift” in the workplace and will be a “win-win” for staff and employers. Speaking to the Guardian after launching the new package of measures last week, Labour’s deputy leader said she wanted to ensure all employees gained rights from day one in a job. She also shrugged off suggestions that she has been at loggerheads with leader Keir Starmer and believed the party could win new voters: “We’re speaking to the country: we’re saying that actually we don’t want to be an opposition, we want to be a government.”

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Donations call – The Conservative party must publish the names of all ministers who secretly met an elite group of party donors, Labour has said. The Tories are facing questions over the conduct of their co-chair, Ben Elliot, the nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall, after it was reported that he had created a club for some of the party’s most generous donors, some of whom gave £250,000 a year or more. The members are reported to have regular access to the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues. A Conservative spokesperson said government policy was “in no way influenced by donations”.

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Treasure trove – Baskets of fruit that have lain untouched for more than 2,000 years are among the latest discoveries unearthed from the sunken Egyptian/Greek city of Thonis-Heracleion. The vast site in Aboukir Bay near Alexandria has already given up some remarkable treasures, but lead archaeologist Franck Goddio says the baskets filled with doum, the fruit of an African palm tree that was sacred for the ancient Egyptians, as well as grape-seeds, are “incredible”. His team have also found sumptuous funerary offerings such as bronzes and ceramics.

Today in Focus podcast: Liverpool’s Unesco loss

Liverpool has become one of the few places to have been dropped from the UN body’s global list of sites. Our North of England correspondent, Josh Halliday, talks about what went wrong.

Lunchtime read: Jessie Cave on acting, and being ‘relentless’

Jessie Cave. London. Photograph by David Levene 26/7/21
Jessie Cave. London. Photograph by David Levene 26/7/21

Actor, comic and writer Jessie Cave talks to Emine Saner about her bestselling debut novel, the cruelty of costume fittings, and how it felt to be in the Harry Potter franchise. As she stars in a new sitcom called Buffering, she also opens up about body image, losing her brother, and being a rape survivor.

Sport

Lions prop Kyle Sinckler is facing a lengthy ban after he was cited for an alleged bite on South Africa’s Franco Mostert during the second Test defeat on Saturday as the tour becomes ever more rancorous. Lewis Hamilton fears he may be suffering from long Covid after he experienced fatigue and dizziness at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Hamilton battled to a third-place finish but admitted he had been feeling drained since contracting Covid last year. With the start of the Premier League season less than two weeks away, we kick off our previews with Arsenal, whose shortcomings were exposed by Chelsea in a friendly defeat yesterday. The season has already started in Scotland where Celtic look like a troubled club after their loss at Hearts.

Business

Employers are offering signing-on bonuses of up to £10,000 to tempt “gold dust” applicants as more than 1.1 million jobs in the UK remain unfilled, with the pingdemic worsening a shortage of workers caused by Brexit and a lack of skills. The FTSE100 is on course to lift 0.4% this morning while the pound is on $1.389 and €1.171.

The papers

The Guardian lead is “PM faces Tory revolt as poverty and hunger crisis hits ‘blue wall’” while the FT reports that “Signs of ‘housing fever’ surface as global property prices surge”. The Telegraph says “Booster shots for 32m begin next month” but the i says “Tories hit by poll slump as PM suffers backlash” as the government’s “vaccine bounce” wears off. The Times has “Tories revolt over new crackdown on holidays” and the normally very pro-Johnson Express says “Boris warned: one last chance to save summer”.

The Mirror leads with the growing war of words with Iran – “UK warns Iran killers” and the Mail splashes on “Pay for your own heart op” because of huge waiting lists. The Sun reports on the travails of England footballer Tyrone Mings: “My mental health battle at Euros”. The Scotsman leads with “Sturgeon faces calls for ‘new ideas’ to tackle drugs deaths” and the National has “SNP hit out at claim UK will back indyref”.

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