Femen Says Founding Member Oksana Shachko Dead In Paris In Suspected Suicide

Femen Says Founding Member Oksana Shachko Dead In Paris In Suspected Suicide

Femen Says Founding Member Oksana Shachko Dead In Paris In Suspected Suicide

The FINANCIAL -- A founding member of the prominent protest group Femen, Oksana Shachko, has died in Paris in an apparent suicide, fellow members say, mourning the loss of a woman they called "a heroine of our time."

Femen co-founder Anna Hutsol told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on July 24 that Shachko was dead, following reports that her body was found in her Paris apartment the previous day.

"As far as I know, she was concerned that everything is going badly in the world," Hutsol said of Shachko. She added that "unfortunately," she and Shachko had not been in touch much lately, according to RFE/RL.

"RIP. The most fearless and vulnerable Oksana Shachko has left us," a post on the Femen website said. "We mourn together with her relatives and friends and [await] the official version from the police."

"At the moment it is known that yesterday, July 23, Oksana’s body was found in her apartment in Paris. According to her friends, she left a suicide note," the post said.

The second secretary at the Ukrainian Embassy in Paris, Oksana Lovha, confirmed Shachko's death to Current Time TV, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

There was no public comment from French authorities, and Lovha said Ukrainian diplomats were awaiting further details from police.

Founded in Ukraine a decade ago, Femen is known mainly for protests in which activists often bare their breasts -- sometimes exposing slogans written on their skin -- and disrupt political events or gatherings.

Femen activists have rushed politicians such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Czech President Milos Zeman, and public figures like American comic Bill Cosby.

Often directed at leaders they describe as dictators or oppressors, their protests have also taken other forms and targeted issues such as the environment.

A native of Ukraine who had lived in Paris in recent years, Shachko, 31, was one of a group of Femen activists who rushed Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hannover, Germany, in 2013.

Shachko was "a heroine of our time," a separate post on the Femen website said. "Oksana fought against injustice, fought for equality, fought like a hero for herself and for other women."

"Oksana is no longer with us, but she is here, she is everywhere," it said. "Oksana... is in each of us, she is in FEMEN, and she is in the history of feminism."

A post on the Telegram channel Paris Burns late on July 23 said that Shachko committed suicide and that the police had just removed her body from the apartment, according to RFE/RL.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the information in the Telegram post, which did not provide details or evidence.

Another founding member of Femen, Oleksandra Shevchenko, told the BBC that Shachko had last been seen alive on July 20 and that it was not clear what day she died.

"The autopsy will determine that," she said.

Femen said in 2011 that Shachko was among three members seized by security officers after staging a topless protest mocking Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

It said the officers forced them to strip naked, poured oil over them, threatened to set them on fire, and cut off their hair.

Femen has said that Shachko was abducted again during a visit by Putin to Ukraine, and a lawyer for the group said she was beaten and briefly hospitalized.

Femen now has branches on at least four continents.