Murder investigation opened after Belarusian activist Vitali Chychov found dead in Kyiv

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Ukrainian police have opened a murder investigation after a Belarusian activist was found dead in Kyiv.

Vitali Chychov was found hanged in one of Kyiv’s parks on Tuesday, not far from his place of residence.

He had gone missing on Monday while out jogging, his organisation said on Telegram.

Police said in a statement that his mobile phone and personal belongings had been removed from the scene.

Chychov was the director of Belarusian House in Ukraine, an NGO that helped people who have fled repression in Belarus.

Human rights group Viasna, citing friends of the activist, said on Telegram that Chychov had previously been followed by “unknown people” while jogging recently.

Police and volunteers had been searching the area where Chychov was last seen jogging with a team of dogs, the Belarusian House had said.

Kyiv confirmed that they had opened an investigation into “premeditated murder” and have not ruled out his the activist’s death could have been a “murder disguised as suicide”.

Police are appealing for witnesses and potential CCTV footage from the local area as part of the investigation.

Chychov’s disappearance came just a day after Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was granted a visa to travel to Poland after she said she feared for her safety if she returned to Belarus.

Tsimanouskaya claimed that, after criticising how the Olympic team was being run in Japan, Belarusian officials had tried to force her home to Belarus.

Since the August 2020 presidential vote that the West denounced as rigged, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has cracked down on opposition protests in his country, prompting many dissidents to flee — often to Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.

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Thousands of opposition demonstrators have been arrested since the disputed vote, while many NGOs and independent media have been forced into liquidation.

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