Activist Who Helped Olympian’s Husband Escape Belarus Found Dead In Ukraine
Ukrainian police have launched a murder investigation after the head of a Belarusian exile group was found dead in a park.
Vitaly Shishov, who helped many Belarusians fleeing persecution through his Kyiv-based organisation Belarusian House in Ukraine (BDU), was found hanged today, August 3, near his home in Kyiv, where he had been living in exile.
Shishov was reported missing on Monday after failing to return home from a run, and following the discovery of his body police are considering both the possibility of suicide and of a murder staged to look like a suicide, Reuters reports.
In a briefing, Ukraine’s national police chief Ihor Klymenko said Shishov was found with abrasions on his nose and knee but that it was too early to determine whether he had been attacked.
The activist’s colleagues claimed Shishov had felt as if he was being constantly surveilled since he left Belarus last year after taking part in anti-government protests. He had reportedly been warned about possible threats, including being kidnapped or killed.
In a statement, BDU said it was ‘also repeatedly warned by both local sources and our people in the Republic of Belarus about all kinds of provocations, including kidnapping and liquidation’. It added: ‘Vitaly treated these warnings stoically and with humour.’
Belarusians have been fleeing to the likes of Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania during a crackdown by President Alexander Lukashenko in the wake of a disputed election last year.
Thousands of people have been detained as a result, while opposition figures are either in jail or living abroad, with Belarusian authorities characterising anti-government protesters as criminals or violent revolutionaries backed by the West.
Authorities are said to have described the actions of their own law enforcement agencies as appropriate and necessary.
A fellow Belarusian exile named Ihor told Reuters Shishov knew he was under surveillance, citing instances of his car being following and his girlfriend being approached by strangers. Ihor commented: ‘Lukashenko’s regime is at war, and he is at war. He is at war with anyone who can offer any resistance.’
Klymenko said police were not aware of any foreign agents tracking Shishov.
Agents have not tied Shishov’s death to Zdanevich’s journey to Ukraine, which took place on the same day his wife was woken up at the Olympics Village and told she had to return to Belarus. The athlete has since accepted asylum from Poland.
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