KHABAROVSK, Russia -- A court in Russia's Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk has sentenced a supporter of the imprisoned former governor of the Khabarovsk Krai region to one year in a prison settlement for using pepper spray against police at a rally in September 2020.
The Zheleznodorozhny district court on April 20 found Denis Posmetyukhin guilty of resisting police during one of the ongoing rallies that demanded the immediate release of the region's former governor, Sergei Furgal, and sentenced him the same day.
A prison settlement is a penitentiary in which convicts live close to a facility where they work.
Investigators say Posmetyukhin used pepper spray against police officers on September 25, 2020, when law enforcement officers tried to detain Andrei Maklygin, who was driving a minibus that Furgal's supporters called the Furgalomobil and used it during their rallies.
Posmetyukhin said after his sentence was pronounced that he had used pepper spray to stop violence.
"In order to prevent a conflict between the parties, so that the people went to one side and police went to the other, to prevent possible use of firearms against people and so on, I used pepper spray," Posmetyukhin said.
Authorities said after Posmetyukhin's arrest in September that probes had been launched against the police officers involved in the case on the charge of abuse of power.
Located near the Chinese border, Khabarovsk has seen regular protests since Furgal was arrested in July on decades-old, murder-related charges and taken to Moscow.
Furgal has denied the charges, which his supporters say were engineered by his opponents with help from the Kremlin.
Furgal, of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, was elected in 2018 in a runoff that he won handily against the region’s longtime incumbent -- a member of the Kremlin-controlled United Russia party. Supporters believe the charges against him were fabricated.
The protests highlight growing discontent in the Far East over what demonstrators see as Moscow-dominated policies that often neglect their views and interests.
President Vladimir Putin's popularity has been declining as the Kremlin tries to deal with an economy suffering from the coronavirus pandemic and years of international sanctions.