The bodies of two dissidents in Belarus were reportedly found last week hanged in forests in two separate incidents. Police have declared the deaths suicides, but opposition supporters say they suspect foul play on the part of Belarus security forces.
For the past two and a half weeks, tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in the country to protest the results of the nation’s August 9 presidential election, which saw Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko elected to a sixth consecutive term. Dissidents immediately rejected the vote as rigged by the state election commission. Their ongoing protests against the election results have since evolved into a general demand for Lukashenko, Belarus’s first and only president for the past 26 years, to step down.
Nikita Krivtsov, 28, went missing on August 12 after participating in the protests. His body was found ten days later on August 22 “in a wooded area outside Minsk, hanging from a tree,” CBS News reported Wednesday. “Police said there was no evidence of foul play, indicating it was a suicide.”
Krivtsov was buried on Tuesday in his hometown of Maladzyechna in northwestern Belarus. The city is located about 45 miles outside of the capital, Minsk, which has been the epicenter of the ongoing anti-government protests. At Tuesday’s funeral, friends and relatives of the man “blamed the police for killing him, calling it an act of reprisal for [Nikita] daring to stand up to the government,” according to the report.
“I’m 100 percent certain that he died at the hands of police,” Alexander Novik, a friend of Krivtsov’s, told CBS News. “If they can do it to him, I fear they can do it to anyone,” he added.
The man’s widow, Elena Krivtsova, told the Associated Press (AP) this week that she has submitted a formal request to the nation’s top investigative agency, the Belarus Investigative Committee, to launch a criminal inquiry into Nikita’s death.
“I don’t believe that Nikita could have done it himself,” Elena told the AP. “He was a cheerful and positive man, he liked his daughter very much, had a good job and a decent salary. He never expressed any thoughts about suicide.”
On August 18, the body of another Belarus dissident, Konstantin Shishmakov, “was found hanged in a forest in western Belarus,” according to AP. “Shishmakov, who headed a small military history museum in Volkovysk near the Polish border, was a member of an election commission who spoke against alleged falsifications in the August 9 balloting. Local police said they found no evidence of a crime, but the death has raised opposition suspicions of foul play.”
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