Shishov case: how should Europe react?

The Belarusian activist Vitaly Shishov, who had been reported missing on Monday, was found hanged from a tree in a park near his home in Kyiv on Tuesday. Police said investigations point to murder staged as suicide. Shishov was head of the organisation Belarusian House in Ukraine and supported opponents of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka who had fled the country.

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Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Exiled Belarusians need more protection

If the suspicions that the Belarusian regime was involved in the killing prove true, it would show once more just how criminal the Lukashenka dictatorship is, the Frankfurter Rundschau comments:

“It would be another in the long series of cases - such as that of activist Roman Protashevich or Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya - with which Minsk is trying to intimidate the opposition. ... The EU is right to consider further sanctions. Moreover, all states that have taken in opposition members from Belarus should take steps to give them even more protection. None of this may stop Lukashenka right away, certainly not as long as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to support him. But it makes life difficult for Lukashenka and helps the opposition.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

Involve other states in investigation

Ukraine should not hesitate to involve partners from Nato countries in the investigation of Shishov's death, writes Bohdan Yaremenko, MP for the ruling party Sluha narodu, in Ukrayinska Pravda:

“Not only do we need to find out whether secret services were involved in this death, we also need to find out - if so - which ones were involved. Ukraine can be advised to find a legal instrument that allows interested Nato partners to have access to the investigations and the files of the investigations. No, this is not about needing 'supervisors'. ... If the worst suspicions are confirmed, the response must be collective. And the certainty that the suspicions and accusations are well-founded will be greater if action is taken collectively.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Deadly priorities

In the Belarusian dictatorship the top priority is to maintain the grip on power at any cost, De Volkskrant comments:

“For dictators like Lukashenka only one thing counts: staying in power. A dictatorship is only fully in the saddle when it pursues its opponents abroad. ... Of course, Belarus is also paying a price. Sanctions by the EU and the US are hurting the economy, its well-educated young people are leaving because they see no future under Lukashenka's rule. Belarus has become dependent on Russia, something Lukashenka always wanted to avoid. But as long as Alexander Lukashenka remains in power everything else comes second.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Speed up Ukraine's EU and Nato accession

At this stage further sanctions against Lukashenka are pointless, Jyllands-Posten stresses:

“Perhaps the answer lies in Ukraine. The process of admitting Ukraine into the EU - and by all means into Nato as well - must be accelerated, also to set an example. Ukraine was in a similar situation but chose Europe and the hope of joining the EU. If - despite everything - Lukashenka is ousted at some stage, this could tempt his successors. It should pay off to get on the right side of history.”

The Economist (GB) /

Minsk successfully causing chaos

The suspected murder of Shishov is another sign that Belarus will keep the rest of Europe on tenterhooks for some time to come, writes The Economist:

“Each new wave of repression prompts more Belarusians to flee. A tottering dictatorship that borders three EU countries and fragile Ukraine is in a superb position to export chaos. Belarus also stands accused of sending Iraqi migrants across its northern border to Lithuania, possibly as punishment for providing a base in exile for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the opposition leader and probable winner of the 2020 election. ... Like most Belarusian exiles, she will be anxiously wondering what else the dictatorship of Belarus thinks it can get away with.”