A missing Belarusian dissident, Vitaly Shishov has found hanged in a park in Ukraine on Tuesday.

The development has made the police to open a murder probe. Supporters are accusing the regime of Alexander Lukashenko of killing the activist who helped his compatriots flee repression.

26-year-old Shishov headed the Belarusian House in Ukraine, a non-governmental organisation. He was involved in everything from helping fellow compatriots settle in Ukraine to staging anti-regime protests.

Belarus strongman Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, has been cracking down on any form of dissent since mass protests erupted after last year’s elections, deemed unfair by the West. The situation has made many Belarusiansto run to neighbouring Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.

“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 said in a statement.

According to the police, they had opened a murder probe and would pursue all leads including a possible “murder disguised as a suicide”.

Activist Oleg Ovchinnikov told AFP that Shishov had bruises on his face and a broken nose when he was found in the woods on the outskirts of Kiev. There were several police cars and dozens of police at the scene, and some carrying black bags.

The Belarusian House in Ukraine 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 activist went jogging in Kiev on Monday morning but did not return. When he could not be reached on his mobile phone, he was declared missing.

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.

According to the NGO,  it had repeatedly received warnings about possible “provocations, including kidnapping and liquidation.”

Friends of Shishov said he had been followed by “strangers” while jogging recently, according to human rights organisation Viasna.

Belarusian authorities have used force to put down historic demonstrations against Lukashenko’s rule and have been trying to snuff out remaining dissent. They had jailed university students, shutting down independent media in the process.

Meanwhile, the United Nations have called on the Ukrainian authorities to conduct a “thorough, impartial and effective investigation into what happened” to Shishov.

“This adds another level to our concerns and our worries about what is happening in Belarus,” UN human rights office spokeswoman Marta Hurtado told reporters in Geneva.

“The situation is deteriorating clearly”.

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