A Belarusian activist, Vitaly Shishov, who was declared missing on Monday, has been found dead at a park in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday.
Police in Ukraine said the body of the 26-year-old Shishov was found hanging in the park, adding they had opened a murder probe.
Shishov, who was the head of the Belarusian House in Ukraine, an NGO helping his compatriots flee repression in Belarus, had a running battle with Belarus autocratic leader, Alexander Lukashenko, whose government has been cracking down on any form of dissent since mass protests erupted after last year’s elections.
The crackdown had led to many Belarusians fleeing the country, often to neighboring Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.
Shishov moved to pro-Western Ukraine in the autumn of 2020, after joining anti-government protests in Belarus, and helped establish the Belarusian House in Ukraine.
The activist went jogging in Kiev on Monday morning but did not return and could not be reached on his mobile phone.
A police statement on the discovery of Shishov’s body said:
“Belarusian citizen Vitaly Shishov, who had gone missing in Kiev yesterday, was today found hanged in one of the Kiev parks, not far from where he lived.”
The police statement said they had opened a murder probe and would pursue all leads including a possible “murder disguised as a suicide.”
The Belarusian House in Ukraine has accused the Lukashenko regime of being behind the murder of Shishov.
“There is no doubt that this is an operation planned by Chekists to liquidate a Belarusian who presented a true danger to the regime,” the NGO said in a statement, referring to security service agents.
The NGO added that Shishov had been involved in everything from helping fellow compatriots to settle in Ukraine to staging anti-regime protests.
The group also said that it had repeatedly received warnings about possible “provocations, including kidnapping and liquidation.”
Shishov’s death came as Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said over the weekend she was forced to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics and threatened with forced repatriation for criticizing her athletics federation.
The sprinter, who was granted a humanitarian visa by Poland on Monday, said she feared being jailed if she returned to her country.
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