A Belarusian activist who led a group in Ukraine helping Belarusians fleeing persecution has been found dead in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, local police said on Tuesday.
Vitaly Shishov, head of the Belarusian House based in Kiev, Ukraine, was found hanged in one of the city’s parks not far from his home, police said in a statement. A murder investigation has been launched, with police investigating the murder resembling suicide, the statement said.
Belarusian House in Ukraine reported on Monday that Chichov had disappeared during a morning run. Belarusian human rights center Viasna quoted Shishov’s friends as saying that he had recently been followed by strangers during his races.
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Belarusian House in Ukraine helps Belarusians fleeing persecution with their legal status in Ukraine, housing and employment.
In Belarus, in recent weeks, authorities have stepped up pressure against non-governmental organizations and independent media, carrying out more than 200 searches of the offices and apartments of activists and journalists in July alone, and arresting dozens of people.
Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko pledged to continue what he called a “sweeping operation” against civil society activists whom he denounced as “bandits and foreign agents”.
Lukashenko faced months of protests sparked by winning a sixth term in an August 2020 vote that the opposition and the West saw as rigged. He responded to the protests with a massive crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.
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The Belarusian House in Ukraine said in a statement Tuesday that Chichov was forced to move to Ukraine in the fall of 2020 as anti-government protests and crackdown on protesters in Belarus were in full swing.
In Ukraine, he was under surveillance, and “both local sources and our people in Belarus” alerted the group to the possibility of “various provocations, including kidnappings and liquidations”.
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“There is no doubt that this was an operation planned by security agents to liquidate a Belarusian, dangerous to the regime. We will continue to fight for the truth about Vitaly’s death,” the group said. .
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