Activist who was ‘being followed’ found hanged in park in suspected murder

A missing activist has been found hanged in a park in Kyiv, Belarus after failing to return from a run and police suspect murder.

Vitaly Shishov, who led a Kyiv-based organisation that helps Belarusians fleeing persecution, had been reported missing by his partner on Monday after not returning home from a run.

His body was found in a park near his home in the Ukrainian capital early today, the Mirror reports.

Police have launched a criminal case, but will investigate all possibilities, including a "murder disguised as suicide", according to reports.

Shishov led Kyiv organisation Belarusian House in Ukraine (BDU) group, which supports Belarusian exiles fleeing persecution to find accommodation and employment, and helps with legal advice, according to its website.

Police said they recovered Shishov's phone and personal items from the scene, and are asking anyone who knew him to get in touch with any information about the last few weeks of his life, including his state of mind and any possible threats to his life.

His friends say Shishov had been followed recently.

Shisov's colleague, Yuri Shchuchko, told Current Time TV that police said Shishov had marks on his face that suggested he could have been beaten up. Shchuchko also said that Ukrainian security service officers and police had previously warned the BHU about threats to activists.

"They said we should watch ourselves because a Belarusian KGB network was active here and anything was possible," he said.

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The BHU said in a statement: "We were warned repeatedly by local sources and our people in Belarus about possible provocations, going as far as kidnapping and assassination. Vitaly reacted to those warnings with stoicism and humour."

Ukraine, along with Poland and Lithuania, has become a safe place for Belarusians during a police crackdown following a disputed re-election last year of president Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power for 27 years.

The news comes as Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystina Timanovskaya is granted a humanitarian visa by Poland after refusing to fly back to Belarus early.

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