Probe launched into suspicious death of Belarusian opposition activist in Ukraine

Minsk Belarus

Authorities in Ukraine have opened an investigation in to the death of a leading Belarusian opposition activist, whose body was found hanging from a tree near his house in Kiev, a day after he went missing. Vitaly Shishov, 26, was a vocal critic of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. For the past year, Shishov had been the director of the Belarusian House in Ukraine (BDU), an activist organization that specializes in assisting political refugees arriving in Ukraine from Belarus

Among other things, BDU is known for helping Belarusian immigrants apply for political asylum in Ukraine, as well as finding them employment and accommodation in Kiev and other Ukrainian urban centers. Alongside Poland and Lithuania, Ukraine has become a major hub for Belarusian exiles, who have been fleeing abroad in their thousands in the past year. Many of them seek to escape a violent crackdown by the authorities, which is ongoing. The crackdown is widely seen as President Lukashenko’s response to the widespread popular protests, which were prompted by his return to power, following the heavily disputed presidential election of 2020.

In addition to his work with BDU, Shishov was known as a particularly outspoken critic of the Belarusian government on social media and in blogs. He frequently organized and led large protest rallies in Kiev, many of them within sight of the Belarusian embassy there. He had also publicized the identities of people, whom he accused of being agents of the Belarusian government. He and his associates often claimed that they were being followed in the streets of Kiev by individuals whom they suspected of being in the service of the government of Belarus.

Shishov’s partner reported him missing on Monday, after he failed to return to his home from a morning jog. Ukrainian authorities said on Tuesday that his body had been found hanging from a tree in a small forested area near his home. Notably, his personal cell phone and other belongings, including his wallet, were found with him. Some reports indicate that his body bore visible bruises, but forensic examinations of the body are ongoing. A Ukrainian police spokesman said on Tuesday that the possibility that Shishov’s death was a murder that had been made to look like a suicide was among several theories being examined. The Belarusian government has not commented on the case.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 August 2021 | Permalink

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