The leader of the Belarusian exile organization Vitaly Shisov was found dead in Kiev, police say | Belarus

The police said that the head of a Kyiv non-profit organization that helped Belarusians escape persecution was found dead in a park in the Ukrainian capital, which raised suspicions that he might have been murdered.

Vitaly Shishov, head of Belarusian House Ukraine (BDU), was reported missing by his partner on Monday because he did not come back from running and he could not be reached by mobile phone.

The police said in a statement: “Vitaly Shisov, a Belarusian citizen who disappeared in Kiev yesterday, was found hanged in a park in Kiev, not far from where he lived.” All clues, including possible ones. “Murder disguised as suicide”.

Shishov’s friends and colleagues suspected that he was against the government Alexander Lukashenko, It launched a widespread suppression of the opposition in Belarus and started a campaign to hunt down its members abroad.

“There is no doubt that this is a planned operation [security services] Liquidate a Belarusian who poses a threat to the regime,” his organization BDU wrote in a statement. “We will continue to pursue the truth about Vitali’s death! The organization called on supporters to gather outside the Belarusian embassy on Tuesday night.

Human rights organization Viasna stated on Telegram that Shishov complained of being followed by “strangers” while jogging recently. “Vitaly is being tracked,” BDU wrote, adding that the organization has been warned that its members may be targets of kidnapping or murder.

Last year, Shisov fled Belarus after a controversial presidential election triggered protests against Lukashenko. Lukashenko’s main rival has been imprisoned or fled the country, while thousands of protesters have been arrested. Many people complained of being tortured by guards in prison.

In Kiev, Shishov provided assistance to fleeing Belarusians, who often relocated to the Ukrainian capital or continued to travel to other safe havens for dissidents in Poland and Lithuania.

Shishkov also organized protests against the Lukashenko regime, including a protest held last week to commemorate the 31st anniversary of Belarus’ independence from the Soviet Union. According to his recent Facebook post, he also raised funds to repair a statue for Belarusians who died during the Euromaidan revolution and fought against Russian-backed troops in eastern Ukraine.

“I was shocked by the news of the death of the Belarusian activist,” wrote Svyatlana Zihanusskaya, the now exiled opposition leader. On Tuesday, she met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and called for tougher international sanctions against Belarus. “The worrying thing is that those who fled Belarus are still not safe. I thank the authorities for investigating this case.”

The Belarusian authorities characterize the anti-government protesters as criminals or violent revolutionaries supported by the West, saying that the actions of law enforcement agencies are sufficient and necessary.

If Shisov’s death is declared murder, it will further arouse concerns about Belarus targeting foreign dissidents in spite of the threat of Western sanctions.

Lukashenko grounded a Ryanair jet in May to arrest a dissident journalist on board. This sparked international outrage and prompted Western countries to sanction dozens of Belarusian officials and Belarus. Economic sector.

But this does not seem to prevent Lukashenko from suppressing dissidents at home and abroad.

This week, Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya (Krystsina Tsimanouskaya) stated that she had been forced to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics for criticizing the coach and the Athletics Federation on social media and threatened to be repatriated. Zimanusskaya, who has obtained a humanitarian visa for Poland, said that she is worried that she will be sentenced to prison after returning home.

Russian opposition Belarusians told the Guardian that they have become targets of extradition, and in some cases, in suspicious circumstances, are more like kidnapping than legal proceedings.

A dissident Belarusian media manager said he has warned his employees in Kiev to stay in groups and avoid walking alone on the street at night. “In Poland, Lithuania and other countries, the Belarusian security services really cannot [act freely], But in Ukraine, they must be there,” he said.

On the occasion of Shishov’s death, Tsimanouskaya’s husband, Arseniy Zdanevich, told several news media that he had fled Belarus and arrived in Kiev shortly before Shishov’s disappearance was announced. Zdanevich said he plans to be reunited with his wife soon.

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