Missing Belarusian Activist Is Found Dead in Park in Ukraine

MOSCOW — A Belarusian antigovernment activist was discovered useless in a park close to his residence within the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on Tuesday, and the police there mentioned that they had begun an investigation into whether or not it was a homicide or suicide.

The activist, Vitaly Shishov, went lacking on Monday after going out for a morning jog, mentioned his colleagues, who accused the Belarusian authorities of killing him. The Kyiv police mentioned that Mr. Shishov had been discovered hanged within the park and that their investigation was contemplating the likelihood that the loss of life was a “homicide masked as a suicide.”

“The complete image of occasions will likely be confirmed after the questioning of witnesses, the evaluation of video recordings” and different investigative steps, the police mentioned.

Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, Belarus’s authoritarian chief, who has been in energy since 1994, has lengthy repressed dissent at residence and jailed hundreds after large-scale protests over his rule final yr. Now, occasions in latest weeks recommend that he’s additionally escalating his marketing campaign towards the rising variety of Belarusian exiles overseas.

In Might, Mr. Lukashenko pressured the touchdown of a passenger airplane with an exiled Belarusian activist aboard and had him arrested. On Sunday, a Belarusian Olympic sprinter sought safety at a Tokyo airport as her nation tried to forcibly ship her residence from the Summer time Video games. She mentioned she feared for her security after criticizing her coaches and the nation’s nationwide Olympic committee.

Mr. Shishov was the director of the Belarusian Home in Ukraine, a company that helped folks attempting to flee repression in Belarus after the antigovernment protests final summer time and fall. He was 26, in accordance with native information studies.

Credit score…Human Rights Middle Viasna, through Related Press

Whereas the circumstances surrounding Mr. Shishov’s loss of life remained murky, critics of Mr. Lukashenko rapidly pointed the finger at his authoritarian regime.

“It’s worrying that those that flee Belarus nonetheless can’t be secure,” Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the pro-democracy opposition chief from Belarus who fled the nation final yr after claiming victory in a presidential election, mentioned on Twitter.

Mr. Shishov disappeared after going out for a 9 a.m. jog close to his Kyiv residence on Monday, colleagues at Belarusian Home mentioned in an announcement. Since fleeing to Ukraine final fall, the assertion mentioned, he had organized support for different exiles, staged anti-Lukashenko protests and petitioned the Ukrainian authorities to help the Belarusian diaspora.

“The loss of life takes place amid an unacceptable Belarusian crack down on civil society,” the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv mentioned on Twitter. “We glance ahead to a whole and thorough investigation by Ukrainian authorities to determine its causes and circumstances.”

Final week, in accordance with his Fb posts, Mr. Shishov helped arrange a rally in Kyiv marking the thirty first anniversary of Belarus’s independence from the Soviet Union.

His colleagues mentioned that he believed he was being adopted and that supporters in Belarus had warned him of potential threats to his life. He responded jokingly that if one thing occurred to him, it would assist his group get much-needed consideration.

“Vitaly confronted these warnings with stoicism and with humor,” the group mentioned. “There is no such thing as a doubt that this was a spy-organized operation to liquidate a Belarusian who was actually a hazard to the regime.”

Mr. Shishov, from the Belarusian metropolis of Gomel close to the Ukrainian and Russian border, arrived in Kyiv after participating in antigovernment rallies, his colleagues mentioned. Final yr’s protests erupted after Mr. Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in a presidential election that was broadly thought-about fraudulent.

For a lot of exiles, Ukraine, which has a visa-free coverage for Belarusians, is a transit level on the way in which to European Union nations like Poland and Lithuania. However Mr. Shishov determined to remain and have become a part of Kyiv’s rising group of Belarusian activists. He participated in solidarity rallies at Kyiv’s central Independence Sq. and tried to assist different new arrivals discover work and lodging.

“He was a relaxed, balanced individual,” mentioned Alena Talstaya, a frontrunner of Razam, one other Belarusian opposition group in Kyiv. “He mentioned his principal sphere of exercise was serving to refugees.”

The move of Belarusian exiles to Ukraine elevated in latest weeks, Ms. Talstaya mentioned, amid a brand new wave of raids and arrests directed towards journalists and rights activists. Mr. Lukashenko mentioned final month that his safety companies had been mounting a “cleaning operation” towards Western-backed “bandits and overseas brokers” intent on unseating him.

In consequence, hostels, accommodations and buddies’ spare rooms in Ukraine crammed with Belarusians fleeing doable arrest, Ms. Talstaya mentioned. Even overseas, nonetheless, Belarusians should not fully secure.

“Hiding is not possible and pointless,” Ms. Talstaya mentioned. “No individual can stay in everlasting concern.”

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