Hundreds of people took to the streets of the Russian Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk on July 26 to demand the release and return of the region's governor.
Sergei Furgal is now in jail in Moscow on charges of attempted murder and ordering two contract killings some 15 years ago. Supporters say the charges are politically motivated. Furgal, who denies the allegations, beat a pro-Kremlin candidate in an election nearly two years ago.
Demonstrations have rocked the city of 600,000 for more than two weeks and have grown to include calls for the resignation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On July 25, a crowd estimated at up to 50,000 turned out despite officials urging people to stay away due to concerns over the coronavirus. Officials put the turnout on July 25 at some 6,500.
The man appointed by Putin to replace Furgal addressed protesters for the first time in public on July 26.
As the demonstration was ending, Mikhail Degtyaryov told a small group that a council would be created to allow the protesters to communicate with him on the Furgal matter.
Degtyarov said he thinks any proceedings against Furgal should be open to the public.
"If there is undeniable evidence, then the people should be allowed to see it," he said.
After Degtyaryov left, a scuffle took place on the square where he had addressed the crowd. Police detained one activist.
Degtyarov is a member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, as is Furgal, but he has never lived in Khabarovsk.
Such sustained demonstrations are unusual for Russia's regions, as is the fact that the authorities have not yet moved to break them up.
They follow on the heels of a controversial nationwide vote that set the stage for Putin to remain in power until 2036. The protests have unnerved Moscow.
Khabarovsk Krai residents overwhelmingly voted for Furgal in the 2018 gubernatorial elections. His surprise victory was a blow to the ruling United Russia party.
Furgal, who was arrested in Khabarovsk on July 9 and transferred to Moscow, is charged with attempted murder and ordering two murders in 2004-2005. He denies the allegations.