Lukashenko’s long arm | free press

One track leads immediately to Minsk. Has Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko liquidated an opposition member abroad? Suspicion is immediately there on Tuesday morning when passers-by discovered the body of Vitaly Schischow in a park in Kiev. hung up. But no one around them believes in suicide. Because the…

One track leads immediately to Minsk. Has Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko liquidated an opposition member abroad? Suspicion is immediately there on Tuesday morning when passers-by discovered the body of Vitaly Schischow in a park in Kiev. hung up. But no one around them believes in suicide. Because the 26-year-old democracy activist is a cheerful young man who wants something. He is fighting for a free Belarus – and against the Lukashenko regime.

Schischow helped organize the mass protests after the controversial presidential election in Belarus a year ago and was eventually forced to flee to Ukraine. In Kiev, he heads the “Belarusian House”, which supports opposition members when they arrive in exile. And that’s why it was apparently on the note from Lukashenko’s power apparatus. “Vitali was under surveillance,” his organization said Tuesday after the obituary. “This was known to the police. Moreover, both Ukrainian sources and informants in Belarus warned us against all kinds of provocations, including kidnappings and liquidations.”

On Monday, Schischow’s colleagues reported that the activist was missing when he failed to return from his morning jog. And of course, on Tuesday, the detectives immediately asked themselves the question: does someone put on sportswear and first run around a park before hanging from a tree? The circumstances surrounding the body are so dubious that prosecutors do not hesitate to investigate the murder.

A friend of Schischow, who only calls himself “Yuri” for security reasons, reported on Ukrainian television that the hanged man’s nose was broken. The police initially did not confirm this. The skin on the nose was cracked. Everything else must be demonstrated by the autopsy. The officials want to avoid all prejudice. But “Yuri” has no doubts that it was murder: “Ukrainian intelligence officers have warned us that KGB agents are mixing with the refugees we are taking in.”

The dramatically intensified fight against opposition members in the country also speaks in favor of the possible involvement of the Lukashenko regime. Most recently, police and secret services in Belarus searched the homes of government critics and arrested people almost every day. According to Boris Gorezkij of the Association of Journalists, the goal is “to completely clear the country of dissenters on the anniversary of the presidential elections on August 9”.

At the time, Lukashenko had claimed his victory with 80 percent of the vote against challenger Svetlana Tikhanowskaya. The opposition spoke of a “fantasy figure”. The regime then suppressed the peaceful mass protests that followed with beatings, detentions and torture. Tens of thousands of people fled abroad or were forced into exile, including opposition leader Tichanovskaya and many activists such as Schischow.

The case of sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya at the Tokyo Olympics also testifies to an increase in pressure in Belarus. The runner criticized the association, which Lukashenko personally controls. Belarusian officials then tried to force Timanovskaya to return home. The 24-year-old fled to the police and eventually applied for asylum at the Polish embassy. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke of a “criminal attempt to kidnap the sportswoman”. The International Olympic Committee launched an investigation into the Belarusian federation on Tuesday.

The Timanovskaya case, on the other hand, is reminiscent of the kidnapping of blogger Roman Protassewitsch in May. The Belarusian Air Force then forced a Ryanair plane carrying Protassevich on a flight from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk. There, security forces removed the 26-year-old from the machine and arrested him. The opposition assumes that Lukashenko wanted to demonstrate in this way how far the arm of his secret service KGB reaches. “The message is: no one is safe, nowhere,” former presidential candidate Tichanovskaya said in her exile in Lithuania.

Schischow’s death in Kiev could now tragically confirm this version – and at the same time be only the beginning. Belarusian intelligence expert Igor Makar points out that the KGB is preparing a coordinated action codenamed “Trust” in several states to kidnap opposition members and bring them to Belarus. Against this background, Tichanovskaya and her colleagues are calling for decisive responses from the international community. Lukashenko and his regime must be classified as a terrorist organization, the Belarus opposition Coordinating Council has demanded. So far, however, the EU has largely confined itself to individual sanctions against representatives of the power apparatus in Minsk. editorial

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