Vitaly Shishov: Head of Belarusian exile group who went missing in Ukraine has been found dead

The head of a group helping people who have fled Belarus has been found dead near his home in neighbouring Ukraine.

Vitaly Shishov’s body was found hanged in a park in Kyiv, a day after he failed to return from a jog. Police have opened a murder inquiry.

Police said they were investigating whether he had been killed and his death made to look like suicide.

Vitaly Shishov, head of the Kyiv-based Belarusian House in Ukraine has helped many Belarusians flee the country after a violent crackdown last year.

The United Nations said Mr Shishov’s death adds another level to “our worries about what is happening in Belarus”, and called for an investigation.

Mr Shishov’s death is the latest incident to prompt international scrutiny of President Lukashenko’s authoritarian government.

Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania in particular have become favoured destinations for those fleeing persecution following a disputed presidential election in Belarus in August 2020.

Friends of Mr Shishov reported that he had been followed recently, Belarusian journalist Tadeusz Gizcan said in a tweet on Monday.

The Belarusian House in Ukraine provides support to new arrivals in finding accommodation, jobs and legal advice, its website says.

The news comes the same day as a Belarusian athlete competing in the Tokyo Olympics was granted a humanitarian visa from Poland after refusing her team’s order to fly home early.