Khabarovsk protests 5th week on: Smaller crowds, but thousands still turn out to back ex-Governor Furgal

Residents of Khabarovsk have taken to the streets once again in a continued show of support for former Governor Sergey Furgal, arrested in July on suspicion of ordering two successful murders, and a third failed killing.

Saturday’s march marks the 29th day in a row of protest in the city situated in Russia’s Far East, although the number of participants has significantly dropped off since two weeks ago. According to Khabarovsk city authorities,  2,800 attended the rally on August 8 – far less than in July, when local sources estimated tens of thousands of people were out on the streets (while the official numbers suggested a little over ten thousand).

Furgal, the then-governor of the Khabarovsk Region, representing the opposition LDPR party, was arrested on July 9 on suspicion of ordering three murders, dating back to the 2000s. The popular politician, who in 2018 beat a candidate from the country’s ruling United Russia party, was immediately flown to Moscow, where he’s in custody, pending trial. Many Khabarovsk locals are infuriated that their former governor was lifted by federal forces, and will face the charges over 6,000km away. After gathering at the city’s central Lenin Square, Khabarovsk residents marched through the center, shouting “This is our choice!” and “A fair trial in Khabarovsk!” The protesters in Khabarovsk demand that Furgal’s case be handled in the region he once represented.

Furgal has remained very popular despite the criminal accusations. On Thursday, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky refused to rule out the possibility that Furgal could be the party’s presidential nominee, if he is found not guilty. The right-wing LDPR is the third most popular in Russia.  

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On July 20, President Vladimir Putin announced that he was appointing Mikhail Degtyarev, a LDPR MP, as the interim governor. His appointment has further angered some residents of the Khabarovsk Region, who see him as an inexperienced transplant from Moscow with no local knowledge.

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