Tens of thousands of people marched Saturday across the Russian city of Khabarovsk on the border with China to protest the arrest of the regional governor on murder charges, continuing a wave of protests that has lasted for two weeks in a challenge to the Kremlin.
Sergei Furgal has been in a Moscow jail since his arrest on July 9, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has named an acting successor.
Protesters in Khabarovsk see the charges against Furgal as unsubstantiated and demand that he stand trial at home.
“People are offended,” protester Dmitry Kachalin said. “I think people take to the streets because their vote in the 2018 election was taken away.”
Daily protests, peaking at weekends, have gone on for two weeks.
“We had enough,” protester Anastasia Schegorina said.
“We elected the governor and we want to be heard and decide ourselves what to do with him. Bring him here, and a fair and open trial will decide whether to convict him or not.”
Authorities suspect Furgal of involvement in several murders of businessmen in 2004 and 2005.
He has denied the charges, which date back to his time as a businessman with interests focusing on timber and metals.
A lawmaker on the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party ticket, Furgal won the 2018 gubernatorial election even though he had refrained from campaigning and publicly supported his Kremlin-backed rival.
His victory was a setback to the main Kremlin party, United Russia, which also has lost its control over the regional legislature.
During his time in office, Furgal earned a reputation as a “people’s governor,” cutting his own salary, ordering the sale of an expensive yacht bought by the previous administration and offering new subsidies to the population.
“We want to protect Furgal,” protester Evgenia Selina said.
“If we hadn’t elected him, he would have been living quietly with his family and working at the State Duma. He would have had a normal life.”
Mikhail Degtyaryov, a federal lawmaker whom Putin named Monday to succeed Furgal, is also a member of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Degtyaryov has refrained from facing the protesters and left the city on Saturday for an inspection trip across the region.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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