Responding to the death of prominent Belarusian exile Vital Shyshou (Vitaly Shishov), who was found hanged in a park in Kyiv on the morning of 3 August, and whose death is being investigated as a possible murder related his political activism, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:
“We welcome the launch of an investigation into the tragic death of Vital Shyshou. The circumstances around his death suggest it is linked to the persecution of peaceful protesters by the Belarusian authorities. The Ukrainian authorities must ensure that its findings are made public and if anyone is reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility they must be brought to justice in a fair trial.
“Many Belarusians and people from other countries in the region escaping political repression have fled to Ukraine. It is critically important that the Ukrainian authorities take tangible steps to ensure their safety. It is equally important that the rest of the world pays attention to the ongoing human rights violations in Belarus.
“The track record of Ukraine’s law enforcement agencies in investigating murders and attacks on foreign nationals seeking refuge on Ukrainian territory has, up to now, been poor. We hope this case will be different.”
Vital Shyshou, the head of the Belarusian House in Ukraine, a non-profit helping people fleeing Belarus out of fear of political reprisals, was found hanged in a park, not far from his place of residence after he went missing during a morning jog. His mobile phone and personal belongings were with him.
The police have opened an investigation, which is considering the possibility that his death was a case of “murder disguised as a suicide”. According to Shyshou’s colleagues, he had noticed that he was being watched. They also state that they had received warnings of sinister plans by Belarusian security services, which Shyshou brushed aside.
A number of political exiles have been killed or survived assassination attempts in Ukraine in recent years, including Belarusian journalist Pavel Sharamet (Sheremet) who was killed in 2016, former Russian State Duma Deputy Denis Voronenkov who was killed in 2017, Chechen refugee Adam Osmayev who survived two assassination attempts in 2017 and his wife Amina Okueva, who was killed the same year. The Ukrainian authorities have been heavily criticized by human rights organisations for failing to conduct effective and conclusive investigations.