The head of a Belarusian exile group that helps asylum seekers flee the country went missing Monday and was found hanged in a Ukraine park, Reuters reported.
Vitaly Shishov, the head of the exile group Belarusian House in Ukraine (BHU), was found hanged at a park in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian police force said Monday, Reuters reported. He went missing while he was jogging Monday morning, the BBC reported.
Police opened a murder inquiry to investigate if he had been killed in what could be an attempt to make it look like a suicide.
BHU helps people fleeing Belarus as the country actively punishes and suppresses voices in opposition to the government and its leadership, the BBC reported. He left the country as security forces violently cracked down on protesters in August 2020 over the contested reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko, who allegedly rigged polls.
A place next to Chaiky village just outside Kyiv where Vitaly’s body was found. His friend Yuri says when police found him his nose was broken (needs confirmation). pic.twitter.com/K7V8h1yiB7
— Tadeusz Giczan (@TadeuszGiczan) August 3, 2021
His colleagues said he had felt like he was under constant surveillance since fleeing, the BBC reported. The UN said Shishov’s death adds to its “worries about what is happening in Belarus,” and called for an investigation. (RELATED: Presidential Challenger In Belarus Sentenced To 14 Years In Prison)
Shishov had marks on his face, which indicated he might have been beaten up, Yuri Shchuchko, a colleague of Shishov told Current Time TV, BBC reported. He said Ukrainian security officers and police had privately warned BHU about dangers to their group because the Belarusian KGB, or secret police, were active in the area.
“We were warned repeatedly by local sources and our people in Belarus about possible provocations, going as far as kidnapping and assassination,” BHU said in a statement, BBC reported. “Vitaly reacted to those warnings with stoicism and humour.”
Shishov’s hanging is the most recent occurrence to prompt condemnation from countries around the world over the authoritarian government of Lukashenko. The U.S. and its allies placed new sanctions on Belarus, after it grounded a plane in May to detain Raman Protasevich, a Belarusian journalist and dissident of the Lukashenko regime.
Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was seen Monday entering the Polish Embassy in Tokyo, where she fled after being pulled from competing in the Games due to her “emotional, psychological state,” according to the Belarusian Olympic Committee, Reuters reported. She refused to board her flight home and said she feared for her safety after she was taken to the airport for criticizing coaches.
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