Belarus exile group leader Vitaly Shishov missing in Kyiv, police say

The head of a Kyiv-based non-profit organisation that helps Belarusians fleeing persecution has been reported missing after not returning from his morning run, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian police force said.

Vitaly Shishov, the head of Belarusian House in Ukraine (BDU), was reported missing by his partner, police said on Monday.

“We will investigate, until there is information about what happened to him. The statement by his partner has been registered. The partner said that he went for a run and did not return, disappeared,” the police spokesperson said by phone.

Police and volunteers had mounted a search of the area where he went running but had failed to locate him.

Friends of Shishov said he had been followed by “strangers” while jogging recently, human rights organisation Vyasna said on Telegram.

Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania have become safe havens for Belarusians during a violent crackdown by president Alexander Lukashenko since disputed elections last year.

BDU helps Belarusians find accommodation, jobs and legal advice, according to its website. In a separate statement, the organisation said it was not able to contact Shishov.

Shishov’s disappearance comes as Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she was forced to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics and threatened with forced repatriation for criticising her athletics federation on social media.

The sprinter, who was granted a humanitarian visa from Poland on Monday, said she feared being jailed if she returned to her country, where the authorities have targeted the president’s opponents, rights activists and journalists.

Her husband, Arseny Zdanevich, told AFP he had fled from Belarus to Ukraine and was hoping to join his wife “in the near future”.

Lukashenko and his son Viktor have been banned from Olympic events over the targeting of athletes for their political views.

The president sparked international outrage in May by dispatching a fighter jet to intercept a Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania in order to arrest a dissident onboard.

With Reuters and Agence France-Presse

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