Leading Belarussian Activist Found Dead In Ukraine

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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

(Worthy News) – The head of a group helping people fleeing Belarus has been found dead near his home in neighboring , officials said Monday. Vitaly Shishov’s body was found hanged in a park in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv a day after he failed to return from a jog, according to .

The discovery came while the International Olympic Committee (IOC) investigated allegations that Belarus put pressure on an athlete to return to Belarus, where a critical journalist received a harsh prison sentence.

Police said they were investigating whether Shishov had been killed, and his death made to look like suicide. Shishov headed the Belarusian House in Ukraine group, which supports people who flee the troubled nation.

Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania, in particular, have become favorite destinations for people fleeing persecution.

Many try to escape a crackdown on dissent following a controversial presidential election last year. Authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko claims he won the vote, but critics believe the election was rigged.

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Exiled Belarussian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya expressed her concern about Shishov’s death. “I understand the background of this death. I would say it was a crime. But I can’t say it without any result of the investigation,” she said.

His death came as the IOC looked into alleged attempts by Minsk to force athlete Krystina Tsimanouskaya to return to Belarus.

Tsimanouskaya had refused her team’s order to fly home early from the Tokyo Games after criticizing Belarusian sports officials. Instead, she has received a humanitarian visa from Poland.

Her refusal to go back to her native Belarus comes in a period of harsh actions by authorities against government opponents. In one of the latest known cases, a court in Belarus sentenced a journalist to a year and a half in prison for allegedly insulting the president in messages in an already deleted chat group.

The verdict in the case against Siarhei Hardziyevich came as part of a massive operation by the Belarusian authorities against independent and activists.

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