Protest fatigue? Russians lose interest in Khabarovsk rallies: Internet searches drop 82% as numbers on streets dwindle

Six weeks on, Russians are no longer interested in the demonstrations in the country’s Far East. That’s according to internet search queries, which have dropped to less than a fifth of the figures seen in mid-July.

The movement began in support of former local governor Sergey Furgal. The LDPR member, who was to lead the far eastern Khabarovsk Region in September 2018, was arrested on July 9 on suspicion of ordering three murders, in the mid-2000s, two of which were successful.

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A rally in support of Governor Sergey Furgal in Khabarovsk, July 18, 2020 © AFP / ALEKSANDR YANYSHEV
Thousands join fresh rally in Russia’s Khabarovsk over arrested governor Furgal (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

In response, thousands of people took to the streets of Khabarovsk to protest his removal and demanding his return to office. The protests in Khabarovsk drew attention from around the world, with journalists from international publications descending on the remote and rarely mentioned Far East.

As first reported by the news outlet Znak, internet users were most interested in the pro-Furgal rallies between July 13 and 19, a week after his arrest, when up to 50,000 people took to the streets. According to analytics undertaken by Yandex, Russia’s most popular domestic search engine, the protests were searched for 298,000 times. A month later, between August 17 and 23, this had dropped to just 53,900 – a fall of 82 percent. The drop in interest reflected the number of demonstrators on the streets, with the region’s administration estimating there were just 1,500 participants on August 22.

Speaking to Znak, political scientist Gleb Kuznetsov explained that this trend is likely to continue. He believes that the Khabarovsk protests were fueled by pent-up emotion during the Covid-19 quarantine, and that the people who “wanted to show their dissatisfaction with the authorities” have now fulfilled that desire and returned to everyday life.

Following his detention, Furgal was flown to Moscow, where he is currently awaiting trial in the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center.

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People take part in a rally in support of governor of the far eastern Khabarovsk region Sergei Furgal, in Khabarovsk, Russia July 11, 2020. © REUTERS/Aleksandr Kolbin; inset Sergei Furgal ©Sputnik / Grigory Sysoev
Thanks, but no thanks: Arrested Governor Furgal ‘does not approve’ of protests for his release, says lawyer

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