Vitaly Shishov, who ran a Kiev-based organization helping Belarusians fleeing persecution, was reported missing by his partner on Monday after failing to return home after a run. Police say they have opened criminal proceedings for the alleged murder, including investigating whether the killers attempted to disguise the crime as suicide.
Shishov had felt under constant surveillance since leaving Belarus last year after participating in anti-government protests, his colleagues said in a statement. He had been warned against possible threats, including being kidnapped or killed.
“The Belarusian citizen Vitaly Shishov, who disappeared yesterday in Kiev, was found hanged today in one of the parks of Kiev, not far from his place of residence”, indicates the statement of the police force.
Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania have become havens for Belarusians in a crackdown on President Alexander Lukashenko following a contested election last year.
Shishov headed the Belarusian House in Ukraine (BDU) group, which helps Belarusians find housing, employment and legal advice, according to its website.
“We have also been repeatedly warned by local sources and our people in the Republic of Belarus against all kinds of provocations, including kidnappings and liquidations,” BDU said in a statement.
The organization said on Monday that it was unable to contact Shishov. He said Shishov left his residence at 9 a.m. local time and was supposed to return an hour later.
Belarusian authorities have branded the anti-government protesters as criminals or violent revolutionaries backed by the West, and have called the actions of their own law enforcement agencies appropriate and necessary.
The BDU was to organize a march in Kiev on August 8 to mark one year since the start of the mass protests against Lukashenko.