Thursday

7th Jul 2022

Opinion

Who murdered Belarusian activist Vitaly Shishov?

  • Would Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko (l) assassinate activists in Ukraine without the consent of Russian president Vladimir Putin (r)? (Photo: Kremlin.ru)

Belarusian opposition activist Vitaly Shishov was found hanging from a tree in a park in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on 3 August.

The 26-year old had gone jogging the day before, but never returned.

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He was the head of Belarusian House, an NGO, in Ukraine and was known for actively supporting Belarusian citizens who had fled from the dictatorial regime of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko.

According to information leaked to media, calls were made from the victim's telephone and immediately interrupted that tragic morning.

Questions arise, such as: who he tried to call or if he was even alive when those calls were made?

But most of all: who benefitted from his death?

Shishov and his girlfriend had moved to Ukraine in the autumn of 2020, when the Lukashenko regime launched a hunt for demonstrators protesting against rigged elections on 9 August.

Upon arrival in Kyiv, Shishov became the head of Belarusian House in Ukraine, providing legal assistance and support for finding housing and work for Belarusian citizens who fled the crackdown at home.

In addition, the House held rallies in Kyiv in support of the Belarusian opposition and informed the public about the crimes of the Lukashenko regime.

Belarusian House in Ukraine repeatedly advocated to sever economic and diplomatic ties between Ukraine and the dictatorial regime, while proposing to create a corridor for political refugees.

In February 2021, Shishov took part in a "freedom marathon" in Kyiv covering a distance of 2,334 meters.

The distance referred to Article 23.34 of the Belarusian penal code, highlighting the fate of the more than 35,000 Belarusians who had been convicted for participating in peaceful protests.

In Ukraine, Shishov also worked as an IT freelancer.

He set up a channel "Tihari for Export" on social media and allegedly collected information about agents of the Belarusian special services working for the Lukashenko regime abroad, in particular in Ukraine.

Suicide not an option

It is highly unlikely his death was suicide.

His relatives and associates have also rejected this version.

If Shishov committed suicide, then how come his nose had been broken and there were fresh injuries on his skin?

The Belarusian activist did not fall during a run, and then, deeply saddened by his clumsiness, take his own life.

It is being investigated whether the injuries on his body were the results of a beating.

In the meantime, criminal proceedings have been opened under the article on premeditated murder (Article 115 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine) and National Police will check all versions, including murder disguised as suicide.

He also left no farewell note.

A representative of Belarusian House in Ukraine, Yuri Shchuchko, said that the NGO had received information from the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) about the arrival of representatives of the Special Operations Forces of Belarus (SOF) and other units in Ukraine for the physical elimination of the activist.

"They said that we should be more careful, because a network of KGB [intelligence service] agents of Belarus was working here and that everything is possible," he said.

"Vitaly [Shishov] asked me to take care of his loved ones. He had had a strange premonition," Shchuchko told reporters.

Daddy's revenge?

Did Shishov do some harm to the regime of "Daddy", as Belarusians sarcastically call Lukashenko?

Yes, he did.

Could Lukashenko have decided to order his assassins to eliminate Shishov?

It is quite possible, given his psychological state.

Lukashenko is being squeezed by EU sanctions, his air-traffic has been shut down, and no one will lend his banks money except Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, even as we ask questions on Lukashenko's role in Shishov's killing, we must remember that little happens in either Belarus or Ukraine without some traces of Kremlin activity.

The relationship between Belarusian and Russian security services is so close that it hardly matters whether it was Lukashenko's KGB or SOF or Putin's spy-services, the FSB and GRU, which targeted Shishov in Kyiv.

Seven years after Ukraine's own revolution against Putin's world, there is still a "fifth column" in the Ukrainian parliament under the label of the pro-Russia party Opposition Platform-For Life.

Its leader, a pro-Russian oligarch called Viktor Medvedchuk, continues to buy up Ukrainian TV channels, turning them into Kremlin mouthpieces.

And with men like that wielding power in Kyiv, Belarusian opposition activists will never feel safe in Ukraine.

Author bio

Ildi Eperjesi is a Hungarian journalist. Oleksandr Kachura is a Ukranian journalist. Both are authors of the book "Shreds of War - Fates From the Donbas".

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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