Accessibility links

Breaking News

Ukrainian Police Open Murder Case After Finding Missing Belarusian Activist 'Hanged' In Kyiv


Ukrainian authorities cordon off the site in the Kyiv park where Belarusian activist Vital Shyshou was found dead on August 3.
Ukrainian authorities cordon off the site in the Kyiv park where Belarusian activist Vital Shyshou was found dead on August 3.

Ukrainian police launched a murder investigation on August 3 after missing Belarusian activist Vital Shyshou was found hanged in a park near his home in Kyiv.

Shyshou, 26, who led a Kyiv-based organization helping persecuted Belarusians, had been reported missing by his girlfriend on August 2 after failing to return home from a run.

"Police have launched a criminal case under Article 115 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (premeditated murder) and will check all versions, including the version of murder disguised as suicide," Ukrainian police said in a statement.

Shyshou had been found with abrasions on his nose and knee, but it was so far unclear whether he had been attacked, Ukraine's national police chief, Ihor Klymenko, told a briefing.

Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been waging a brutal crackdown since massive protests challenged his claim to a landslide reelection for a sixth presidential term in August 2020.

Belarus Sent Hit Squads To Kill Lukashenka Critics, Says Man Who Found Activist's Body In Kyiv
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:27 0:00

Many exiled opposition voices fled to Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania.

Shyshou’s death immediately led to speculation of foul play amid growing concern that even Belarusians abroad are under threat from the tentacles of Lukashenka’s security apparatus.

Exiled opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has used her Lithuanian exile to rally international support for Belarus’s pro-democracy movement, said she was "devastated" by Shyshou's death.

Vital Shyshou had "no reason" to commit suicide, his girlfriend says.
Vital Shyshou had "no reason" to commit suicide, his girlfriend says.

“It is worrying that those who flee Belarus still can't be safe. I'm thankful to [Ukrainian] authorities for launching an investigation into this case,” she said on Twitter.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he was “shocked” by the death of someone who has helped so many flee the Lukashenka regime’s "repression.” He commended Ukraine for opening an investigation into the death, including “possible murder.”

Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election.

Shyshou's organization, Belarusian House In Ukraine, said on Telegram that its members were being watched by Lukashenka’s agents and various sources had warned of “provocations, up to abduction and liquidation.”

"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.

Shyshou's girlfriend, Bozhena Zholudz, told RFE/RL’s Belarus Service that he had "no reason” to commit suicide.

A fellow Belarusian House activist, Yury Shchuchko, was part of the search party that found Shyshou's body in the park.

He told Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, that Lukashenka's security officials were known to be operating inside Ukraine and might be responsible.

"It is a usual [KGB security agency] scheme. The man was hanged with traces of beating on his face. Nothing is missing," Shchuchko said.

Shchuchko said Belarusian House members had been warned by Ukrainian authorities about "people from Belarusian special operations forces and other units coming to Ukraine to physically liquidate" them.

"The Security Service of Ukraine was also giving us such information," Shchuchko said. "They asked us to be cautious, because a network of Belarusian KGB agents is operating here, and anything is possible.”

Shyshou is originally from the southeastern Belarusian town of Rechytsa and moved to Ukraine in the autumn of 2020 following the crackdown on anti-government protests. He helped establish the Belarusian House In Ukraine.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.