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NGO accuses Minsk after Belarusian activist found dead in Ukraine

August 03, 2021

Vitali Shishov was the director of Belarusian House in Ukraine, an NGO that helped people who have fled repression in Belarus. — courtesy Belarusian House in Ukraine
Vitali Shishov was the director of Belarusian House in Ukraine, an NGO that helped people who have fled repression in Belarus. — courtesy Belarusian House in Ukraine

KIEV — The Belarusian House in Ukraine, an NGO that helps people who have fled repression in Belarus, accused Minsk of a "planned operation" after its director Vitali Shishov was found dead in Kiev on Tuesday.

"There is no doubt that this is a planned operation of the security forces to liquidate a person truly dangerous for the Belarusian regime," the group said on Telegram.

“Vitali was under surveillance and [Ukrainian] police were notified. We had been warned on several occasions, both by local sources and by people in Belarus of the possibility of all kinds of provocations up to and including 'kidnapping and liquidation,’” the NGO went on.

Shishov, 26, was forced to flee to Ukraine last fall after taking part in anti-government protests in Gomel, southern Belarus, and "actively opposing" authorities, the Belarusian House said.

Ukrainian police opened a murder investigation after Shishov was found hanged in one of Kiev's parks on Tuesday, not far from his place of residence.

He had gone missing on Monday while out jogging, his organization said on Telegram. Police said in a statement that his mobile phone and personal belongings had been removed from the scene.

Human rights group Viasna, citing friends of the activist, said on Telegram that Shishov had previously been followed by "unknown people" while jogging recently.

Police and volunteers had been searching the area where Shishov was last seen jogging with a team of dogs, the Belarusian House had said.

Kiev confirmed that they had opened an investigation into "premeditated murder" and have not ruled out his the activist's death could have been a "murder disguised as suicide".

Police are appealing for witnesses and potential CCTV footage from the local area as part of the investigation.

Shishov's disappearance came just a day after Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was granted a visa to travel to Poland after she said she feared for her safety if she returned to Belarus.

Tsimanouskaya claimed that, after criticizing how the Olympic team was being run in Japan, Belarusian officials had tried to force her home to Belarus.

Since the August 2020 presidential vote that the West denounced as rigged, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has cracked down on opposition protests in his country, prompting many dissidents to flee — often to Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.

Thousands of opposition demonstrators have been arrested since the disputed vote, while many NGOs and independent media have been forced into liquidation. — Euronews


August 03, 2021
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