A Belarusian activist helping exiles from his home country in Ukraine was found hanged in a park in Kiev, where he was running, on Tuesday morning.
Vital Shyshou was 26 years old, headed the Belarusian House in the Ukrainian capital and had been missing since Monday (2). Police aren’t ruling out the possibility of a homicide disguised as suicide – investigators said the young man had bruises on his nose and knee.
According to the NGO led by Shyshou, the organization received warnings of possible attacks by the dictatorship, such as kidnappings or even killings. Friends also said he had felt under surveillance since leaving his home country in October last year.
“This is a message to all Belarusians abroad,” declared Volha Yermalayeva Franco, representative in Brazil of the opposition to the Belarusian dictatorship.
“It is worrying that those fleeing Belarus cannot yet be safe,” Svetlana Tikhanovskaia, the main leader of the opposition to the dictatorship, told a social network.
Just over two months ago, another Belarusian exile, blogger Roman Protassevich, was kidnapped and jailed by the regime, following reports that he was being spied on.
A commercial flight on which the journalist was traveling from Greece to Lithuania was intercepted by a Belarusian fighter and forced to land at Minsk airport, where Protassevich was being held.
Fearing a similar fate, 24-year-old sprinter Kristina Tsimanouskaia, who competed in the Tokyo Olympics, refused to return to Belarus.
There are several cases of athletes who have been imprisoned by the regime of dictator Alexander Lukashenko since the presidential election in August last year, which was deemed to be rigged. The country has at least 506 political prisoners, according to a survey carried out on Tuesday by the human rights organization Viasna.
Shyshou was not a particularly active activist until the middle of last year, according to his country’s media. Born in Retchitsa, a town of 66,000 inhabitants in south-eastern Belarus, he moved to the regional center —Gomel—, where he worked as a freelance writer for information technology companies.
Orphaned by his father and mother, he left Belarus after the dictatorship began cracking down on protests calling for Lukashenko’s resignation – more than 30,000 have been arrested since then, and more recently the dictatorship condemned his opponents in criminal cases.
In Kiev, in addition to helping Belarusian fugitives to find work and employment, he organized peaceful protests to draw the attention of the international community to the collapse of civil rights in Belarus. It is from there that Shyshou gains visibility on social networks.