A Belarusian activist in Ukraine who went missing on a morning run on Monday has been found hanged in a park.
Ukrainian police said in a statement on Tuesday that Vitaly Shishov was found in a park near where he lives. His mobile phone and personal belongings were on him.
Police are looking into “all possible” theories including murder disguised as a suicide. The activists’ associates say they have “no doubt” that he was killed by the Belarusian regime.
Mr Shishov was the head of the Belarusian House in Kyiv, an NGO that has provided help to thousands of Belarusians who fled the regime of Alexander Lukashenko to the neighbouring Ukraine.
“We have no doubt that this was a pre-planned intelligence operation to get rid of a Belarusian who was a threat to the regime,” the Belarusian House said in a statement on Tuesday.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the exiled Belarusian opposition leader, is meeting Boris Johnson on Tuesday in her first visit to the UK.
Ms Tsikhanouskaya, who was pushed out of the country after running against Mr Lukashenko last summer, is expected to press for more sanctions against the Belarusian government.
The Belarusian House organised anti-Lukashenko rallies and helped Belarusians immigrants to find work and accommodation.
With border crossing severely restricted by the pandemic, Ukraine last year emerged as a safe haven for Belarusians looking to flee the country.
The Belarusian House which raised the alarm on Monday when Mr Shishov went out on a run and never returned, said in a statement on Tuesday that he had been followed by unknown men in Kyiv before.
“Our local sources as well as people in Belarus have warned us about possible provocations including kidnapping and killing,” the NGO said.
“Vitaly treated those warnings with stamina and humour, saying that maybe then the Belarusian House in Ukraine will get some publicity.”
It comes as a Belarusian Olympic athlete was sheltering in Poland’s embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday after being offered safe passage to Warsaw.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya says she fears for her safety if she returns to Belarus, and claims her team attempted to force her onto a plane after she criticised her coaches.