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Hundreds Protest For Second Day In Russia's Khabarovsk After Arrest Of Popular Governor


Sergei Furgal (file photo)
Sergei Furgal (file photo)

Hundreds marched through Khabarovsk amid a second day of protests in the Russian Far Eastern city over the arrest of a popular regional governor.

The July 12 demonstration saw people marching to the regional headquarters of the Federal Security Service, chanting "Free Furgal” -- a reference to Sergei Furgal, who was arrested two days earlier on murder charges dating back more than a decade.

The street protests, and angry political sentiment against the Kremlin, were unusual given how far Khabarovsk is from the Russian capital, and given how the Kremlin has marginalized all political opposition in the country. The protests were also the largest in the country since a national vote that has set the stage for President Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2036.

Videos posted on social media showed a crowd marching through downtown traffic, chanting and holding signs in support of Furgal.

Nadezhda Tomchenko, Furgal’s spokeswoman, said his team is "thankful for such support."

"The whole city is abuzz," said Tomchenko in a July 12 video statement on Facebook. "I would like to ask, however, to refrain from aggression, from provocations.”

A member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Furgal was elected governor of Khabarovsk in 2018 in a major upset of the ruling United Russia party, which is backed by the Kremlin and dominates Russia’s political life.

Protesters questioned why prosecutors decided to arrest Furgal now, 15 years after the alleged crimes, and demanded his trial be held in Khabarovsk and in a transparent manner.

The state-run TASS news agency estimated the July 12 action included several hundred people. Activists affiliated with the corruption crusader Aleksei Navalny put the figure at around 5,000.

WATCH: Thousands March In Support Of Arrested Khabarovsk Governor (July 11)

Thousands March In Support Of Arrested Khabarovsk Governor
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A protest on July 11 saw around 5,000 people, according to official estimates, though local media said as many as 35,000 may have participated.

Smaller rallies were also held in the military industrial city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur and other towns in the region.

On July 10, a Moscow court ordered the 50-year-old Furgal held in pretrial detention for two months. He has pleaded not guilty to ordering the murders and attempted murders of several businessmen in 2004 and 2005.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the outspoken nationalist leader of the party, told the State Duma on July 9 that the party’s faction in parliament was “ready to resign in protest” against the arrest.

"Let the whole world learn what a mess this country is," Zhirinovsky told the parliament’s lower chamber earlier this week.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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