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Thousands rally in Khabarovsk for 3rd consecutive Saturday over arrested ex-governor Furgal

Residents of Russia’s Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk have continued to show their support for imprisoned former governor Sergey Furgal, with the city’s streets seeing mass protests for the 15th day in a row.

Furgal, a highly popular politician in the Far East, was arrested on July 9 on suspicion of ordering two successful murders, and a third failed murder, dating back to the 2000s. Following his detainment, the former governor was flown immediately to Moscow, where he currently awaits his day in court. Many Khabarovsk locals, over 6,000km from the capital, are infuriated that Furgal has been removed by federal powers and will stand trial so far away. Furgal maintains his innocence.

According to local news portal DVhab.ru, an estimated 15,000-20,000 people took to the streets in the main city of the Khabarovsk Region, with the mayor’s office counting only 6,500. Though the protest was unsanctioned, the mass gathering appeared to go off without a hitch.  

Khabarovsk residents marched along some of the city’s main thoroughfares towards the regional government’s headquarters. As in previous weeks, protesters chanted slogans of “Fair trial in Khabarovsk!“, “As long as we are united, we are invincible!” and “Freedom for Furgal!”  Outside of Khabarovsk, much smaller rallies were also held in other Far Eastern cities, such as Vladivostok, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.  

Furgal was elected as governor of the Khabarovsk Region in September 2018, beating the candidate from United Russia, the country’s ruling party. He has remained a popular figure ever since, and in 2019, his Liberal Democratic party won a landslide victory.

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On July 20, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree announcing the interim governor as Mikhail Degtyarev, an MP from the same party as Furgal. His appointment has further angered some residents of the Khabarovsk Region, who see him as an inexperienced transplant from Moscow with no local area knowledge. On July 24, the eve of the rallies, Degtyarev announced that he would leave the city and visit the more rural areas of the region. 

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