Acting Khabarovsk governor admits he would have joined protests backing predecessor Furgal if he were a native of the region

Mikhail Degtyarev, the acting governor of Khabarovsk Region in Russia’s Far East, has admitted that he would have taken to the streets with other protesters in recent weeks if he had voted for Sergey Furgal – the man he replaced.

Speaking to Moscow daily Izvestia, Degtyarev conceded that he felt sympathy for the people marching to protest against the arrest of Furgal, calling the situation “frustrating.”

Degtyarev was installed as governor after his popular predecessor was arrested on July 9 on suspicion of ordering three murders – two successful and one failed – in the mid-2000s. In Khabarovsk, many locals are furious that their elected representative was removed by federal authorities and flown to Moscow to stand trial. Since then, local residents have been protesting en masse every weekend to demand that Furgal receives an open, fair trial in his native region.

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“If I lived here and voted for the governor, and then he was arrested, I would probably come out myself,” Degtyarev said.

Despite his “positive attitude” towards the demonstrators, he was quick to accuse some people of “being parasites,” explaining that they were coming to Khabarovsk from other areas, just to protest.

“People have flocked to the protests from other regions, even other countries,” Degtyarev said. “You see, protestors are raising red flags in solidarity with the Belarusian protests. What do they have to do with it?”

In July, local media reported that thousands of Khabarovsk residents came out in support of Furgal, every Saturday of the month. Elected as governor of Khabarovsk Region in September 2018, Furgal has remained a popular figure. In 2019, his Liberal Democratic party won a landslide victory in the local elections. He is currently awaiting trial in Moscow’s Lerfortovo Pre-Trial Detention Center.

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