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Russian Far East Rallies Continue As Protesters Denounce Putin, New Governor

People march in support of Sergei Furgal in Khabarovsk on July 21.
People march in support of Sergei Furgal in Khabarovsk on July 21.

KHABAROVSK, Russia -- Hundreds of supporters of the arrested former governor of Russia's Far Eastern Khabarovsk region, Sergei Furgal, have rallied for the 14th straight day, demanding the resignation of President Vladimir Putin and denouncing the Putin-appointed acting governor of the restive region.

The demonstrators gathered on the central square in the regional capital, Khabarovsk, on July 24, chanting "Putin must resign" and "Bring Furgal back."

The protesters said they plan a much bigger protest on July 25.

Police were present at the rally but did not interfere as the protesters made their way across the city chanting slogans denouncing the newly appointed acting governor of the region, Mikhail Degtyaryov.

Degtyaryov, who was appointed by Putin on July 20, wrote on Instagram on July 24 that he was following the protests via surveillance cameras.

Degtyaryov on his Instagram account asked Khabarovsk residents to keep social distancing during the rallies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and warned that authorities might tighten coronavirus restrictions.

He called on the people not to rally on the weekend and to spend time "properly" at their summer houses and with relatives.

The day before, Degtyaryov said the ongoing rallies were organized by unspecified "foreigners."

He said earlier that he would not meet with the protesters.

Putin fired Furgal on July 20 before appointing Degtyaryov to the post. Both are members of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR).

On July 21, two local lawmakers, Pyotr Yemelyanov and Aleksandr Kayan, quit the LDPR to protest Furgal's dismissal.

Furgal, who was arrested in Khabarovsk on July 9 and transferred to Moscow, has been charged with attempted murder and with ordering two murders in 2004-05. He denies the allegations.

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

The Khabarovsk rallies have attracted thousands of people on the weekends and are the largest protests in the city since the fall of the Soviet Union.

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