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Thousands In Russia's Far East Continue Anti-Putin Protests, Chant 'Long Live Belarus!'


People carry a banner reading "Return Furgal to us" during a rally in support of Sergei Furgal in Khabarovsk on August 8.
People carry a banner reading "Return Furgal to us" during a rally in support of Sergei Furgal in Khabarovsk on August 8.

Thousands of protesters have marched in Russia's Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk, where rallies against President Vladimir Putin's role in a regional political crisis have been held for over a month.

Some of the protesters chanted "Long live Belarus!" as they marched through Khabarovsk on August 15, voicing support for demonstrations against the disputed presidential vote in Belarus.

The disputed August 9 election in Belarus handed strongman President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth term and sparked nationwide protests that have been brutally put down by security forces.

Demonstrators have attended weeks of the mass demonstrations in Khabarovsk to express anger since central authorities arrested Governor Sergei Furgal and transferred him to custody in the capital Moscow.

There were no immediate reports of detentions at the Khabarovsk event.

Authorities in Khabarovsk said the number of protesters "has dropped significantly" and said that only about 1,500 people attended the August 15 march.

But live footage of the march showed several thousand protesters in attendance.

After the protest, police detained Aleksei Vorsin, the head of the local office of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. He was being held overnight before facing on judge on administrative charges of participating in an unsanctioned demonstration.

During the August 15 rally, Vorsin gave a speech in which he suggested that workers in Khabarovsk follow the example of Belarus and organize a general strike.

Protesters also demanded the immediate release of Furgal.

A member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Furgal was elected by a wide margin in 2018 over the incumbent candidate from Putin's ruling United Russia party.

Furgal was arrested on July 9 and transferred to a jail in Moscow for what authorities said was suspicion of involvement in several murders in 2004 and 2005.

Furgal was then dismissed by Putin, who appointed LDPR member Mikhail Degtyaryov as the Khabarovsk region's acting governor.

Furgal's supporters say the charges against him are politically motivated retribution for his 2018 election defeat of Putin's ally.

The Kremlin says Furgal has serious charges to answer.

The protests highlight growing discontent in the Far East over what demonstrators see as Moscow-dominated policies that often neglect their views and interests.

'We Have The Same Ideals': Protesters In Russia's Far East And Belarus Feel A Connection
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Putin's popularity has been declining as the Kremlin tries to deal with an economy suffering from the coronavirus pandemic and years of ongoing international sanctions.

The pro-Furgal demonstrations have attracted tens of thousands of protesters on weekends since they started on July 11.