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This Exiled Belarus Opposition Activist Has Been Found Dead In A Park In Ukraine After Going Missing

Vitaly Shishov, a Belarusian opposition activist, has been found dead in Kiev, Ukraine, where he had been living in exile.

The 26-year-old, who was the head of a group that helped people who fled Belarus, went missing on Monday Aug. 2 when he went out for a morning jog.

He was found hanged in a park near his home the next day.

Kiev police have opened an investigation and say they are considering the possibility of a murder staged as a suicide.

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Shishov, who left Belarus last year after taking part in the mass anti-government protests, ran the Belarusian House in Ukraine (BDU) group, which organized aid for exiled Belarusians such as find jobs, accommodation and legal advice.

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He had also organized protests against the Belarusian government and petitioned the Ukrainian authorities to support the Belarusian diaspora, according to a statement from BDU, the New York Times reported.

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His colleague said that Shishov had felt that he was under constant surveillance since leaving Belarus and had been warned about possible threats of being kidnapped or killed, Reuters reported.

Ihor, another Belarusian exile, told Reuters that Shishov had told them about instances when his car was followed and his girlfriend was approached by strangers at protests in Kiev.

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Ukrainian police say they were not aware of any foreign agents tracking him and Shishov had not reported it to police.

Police said Shishov was found with abrasions on his nose and knee but it was too early to determine whether he had been attacked.

Since his re-election last August, Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko has been cracking down on dissent.

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Riot police have responded to mass protests demanding his resignation by beating and detaining protesters.

More than 33,000 people have been detained, and more than 1,800 criminal cases were opened against activists, according to human rights group Viasna.

Protesters say the contested election last year was rigged in order to extend Lukashenko’s rule since 1994.

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In May, Lukashenko ordered a fighter jet to intercept a passenger plane carrying prominent opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and force it to land in Minsk, where authorities then arrested Protasevich, sparking international outrage.

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Authorities have released video of Protasevich showing him confessing to organizing anti-government protests and praising Lukashenko, footage that Protasevich’s family and allies say was obtained under duress.

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In June, an opposition activist stabbed himself in the neck with a pen during a court hearing, saying investigators had pressured him to plead guilty by threatening to prosecute his family and friends.

Earlier this week, sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who was representing the country at the Tokyo Olympics, was taken to the airport against her wishes to go home after she complained about the country’s coaches in an Instagram video. Tsimanouskaya has since been granted asylum in Poland and arrived in Warsaw on Thursday Aug. 5.

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