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Protests Continue In Russia's Far East Over Arrest Of Local Governor

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Tens of thousands of protesters march in Khabarovsk on July 18.

Mass rallies continue to rock Russia's Far East as the backlash against the arrest of a local governor rattles the Kremlin.

Thousands of people took part in protests across the region, including in Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, and Birobidzhan.

The fresh rallies come after tens of thousands peacefully demonstrated in the city of Khabarovsk on July 18 to demand the release of Khabarovsk region Governor Sergei Furgal. Despite the protests not being given official permission, no detentions were reported.

Organizers put the size of the July 18 protests at some 50,000 people in a city of only 600,000 people.

Weeklong Khabarovsk Protests Culminate In Thousands-Strong Demonstration
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Furgal, who was arrested in Khabarovsk on July 9 and transferred to Moscow, is charged with attempted murder and ordering two murders in 2004-05. On July 16, the Moscow City Court in a closed-door decision upheld Furgal's pretrial detention.

The 50-year-old Furgal, who belongs to the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, denies the charges, and his supporters say they are politically motivated.

Furgal was elected governor of the Khabarovsk region, which borders China, two years ago in an upset for the longtime incumbent, who represented the ruling United Russia party.

The continuing protests, far from the Russian capital, are a rare public show of defiance of the Kremlin and come following a controversial nationwide vote that set the stage for President Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2036.

The authorities have been unnerved by the protests, with the regional capital's mayor calling for calm and saying such rallies were illegal and could spread the coronavirus.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) had also warned of an alleged terrorist threat involving explosives, which it claimed to have already foiled.

In addition, authorities in Khabarovsk said they were considering a return to strict quarantine in the region and attributed this to the "difficult situation with the spread of coronavirus infection."

With reporting by dpa
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