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04th Aug 2021

Crowds gather outside embassy after Belarusian activist found dead in Ukraine

Kieran Galpin

The death of a Belarusian activist spurs passionate crowds

Yesterday, Belarusian activist Vitaly Shishov was reported missing by his partner after he failed to return home from a run. Later, Ukrainian police had found him hanged in the park, with both suicide and murder being investigated as the cause of death.

Vitaly Shishov had been exiled from Belarus and was currently living in Ukraine, where he managed a Kyiv based organisation that assisted Belarusians fleeing persecution.

Shishov had been found with abrasions on his nose and knee, but it was too early to determine whether he had been attacked, Ukraine’s national police chief, Ihor Klymenko, told a briefing. Reuters reports that Shishov felt under constant surveillance since fleeing Belarus, and he had been warned about possible threats, including being kidnapped or killed.

“It is worrying that those who flee Belarus still can’t be safe,” exiled opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said on Twitter ahead of a meeting in London with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Hundreds of Belarusian exiles gathered in front of the country’s embassy in Ukraine on Tuesday evening to honour Shishov and his contribution to the movement.

Euro News reports that the Belarusian community in Kyiv is convinced that his death was a hit related to Belarus’ president, Alexander Lukashenko. His election was a huge topic of debate, with huge protests breaking out in response. After a brutal crackdown on dissent, many Belarusians fled to other parts of Europe, including Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.

“In general, I agree with our organisation, that this is the work of KGB or maybe Russian security services. I definitely think it was a murder because last Sunday I spoke with him and he was very positive about continuing work and his fight against the dictator,” Said Alexander, a man at the vigil who Euro News Spoke to.

“I don’t think it is suicide. It looks like what the regime has been doing before. It is not the first case of this.”

“Probably it was a murder, as far as I can read. It looks like it was a murder, but we need some more information, so these are my thoughts for now,” said another attendee.

Bazhena Zholud, the girlfriend of Vitali Shishov, spoke at the vigil in the hopes of calling people into action:

“I want to address all of the Belarusians. There are many media here. Stop walking with flowers and posters, we can’t achieve anything with peaceful protest. Yesterday it happened to Vitali, and tomorrow it will happen to you. And they just don’t care, that we stand here and shout. I ask you to leave the flowers and posters and start unpeaceful protesting,” said Zholud.

“His murder shows that nobody is insured against the threat of political murders. Unfortunately, nobody today can feel safe as long as the regimes of Lukashenko and Putin live on,” Olena Tolstaya, co-head of Movement of Solidarity “Together.”