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Ukrainian Police Open Murder Case After Finding Missing Belarusian Activist 'Hanged'

By RFE/RL's Belarus Service, Current Time August 03, 2021

Ukrainian police said on August 3 that they have launched a murder case after finding missing Belarusian activist Vital Shyshou dead in a park near his home in Kyiv.

Police said they would investigate all possibilities, including foul play and premeditated murder.

Exiled opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Shyshou's colleagues from his Kyiv-based NGO, which helps persecuted Belarusians, expressed urgent concerns that even Belarusians abroad are under threat from Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka's security forces.

Shyshou's death comes with the international community mobilizing to offer amnesty to a Belarusian Olympian who seemingly ran afoul of Lukashenka before national team officials cut her Tokyo Games short and tried to force her onto a plane home.

"Police have launched a criminal case under Article 115 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (premeditated murder) and will check all versions, including the version of murder disguised as suicide," Ukrainian police said in their statement after Shyshou's body was discovered.

Shyshou's NGO, Belarusian House in Ukraine (BDU), helps Belarusians fleeing persecution by Lukashenka's regime.

Lukashenka has been waging a brutal crackdown since massive protests challenged his claim to reelection for a sixth presidential term in August 2020.

"Belarusian citizen Vital Shyshou, who disappeared yesterday in Kyiv, was found hanged today in one of Kyiv's parks, not far from his place of residence," the police statement said.

The BDU said on Telegram on August 2 that the activist apparently went for his daily run earlier in the day and did not return.

The organization said Shyshou's workout clothes were not at his home and that attempts to contact him by telephone were unsuccessful.

Tsikhanouskaya, who has used her Lithuanian exile to rally international support for democratic Belarusian elections and Lukashenka's resignation, said she was "devastated" by Shyshou's death.

"Devastated by the news of the death of the Belarusian activist Vital Shyshou who was found hanged in Kyiv," she said on Twitter. "My heart is with his family. It is worrying that those who flee Belarus still can't be safe. I'm thankful to [Ukrainian] authorities for launching an investigation into this case.

A fellow BDU activist, Yury Shchuchko, was part of the search party that found Shyshou's body in the park.

He told Current Time that Shyshou's face appeared to show signs of having been beaten, and he suggested that Lukashenka's security officials known to be operating inside Ukraine might be responsible.

"It is a usual [KGB] scheme. The man was hanged with traces of beating on his face. Nothing is missing," a visibly distressed Shchuchko said.

Shchuchko said BDU members had been warned by Ukrainian authorities about "people from Belarusian special operations forces and other units coming to Ukraine to physically liquidate" them.

"The Security Service of Ukraine was also giving us such information," Shchuchko said. "They asked us to be cautious, because a network of Belarusian KGB agents is operating here, and anything is possible. Vital asked me to take care of people close to him, those around him. He had a strange kind of presentiment."

Shyshou is originally from the southeastern Belarusian town of Rechytsa and moved to Ukraine following the country's hotly disputed August 2020 presidential election, in which strongman Lukashenka claimed victory, leading to mass street protests.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/belarus-activist -shyshou-dead/31390897.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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