Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday ordered his security services to provide extra protection for Belarus exiles in the country after a dissident was found hanged in a Kiev park.
“Every Belarusian who can become the target of criminals because of their public political position must obtain special and reliable protection”, Zelensky said in a statement.
Zelensky told the Interior Ministry and SBU security service to “work out a clear algorithm for assessing possible risks” in order to “eliminate any threat to people”.
The order came after a Belarusian dissident, Vitaly Shishov, went missing and on Tuesday was found hanged in a park in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
Police said they had opened a murder probe into the death of the activist who headed the Belarusian House in Ukraine, an NGO helping his compatriots flee repression in Belarus.
Police added they would pursue all leads including a possible “murder disguised as a suicide.”
Zelensky’s office said on Wednesday that the decision to bolster protection for Belarusian exiles was brought on by information about the “possible threats to a number of Belarusian activists” as well as by Shishov’s “tragic” death.
The president’s office said Zelensky “expects a comprehensive investigation into all the circumstances surrounding Shishov’s death”.
The 26-year-old activist went jogging in Kiev on Monday morning but did not return and could not be reached on his mobile phone.
Shishov’s NGO said he had been followed recently.
Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko has been cracking down on any form of dissent since mass protests erupted following last year’s elections, deemed unfair by the West.
Many Belarusians have fled, particularly to neighbouring Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.
Shishov’s death came as Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said over the weekend she was forced to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics and threatened with forced repatriation for criticising her athletics federation.