Russia’s Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk sees third day of protests in support of arrested governor
Russia’s Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk witnessed its third day of demonstrations in defense of regional governor, Sergey Furgal, who was arrested last week on suspicion of orchestrating multiple murders. During the evening of Monday, July 13, hundreds of protesters gathered near the regional administration building in Khabarovsk, chanting “Freedom!” and “Furgal is our choice.” Law-enforcement officials arrested one person, but generally police abstained from interfering in the gathering. Monday’s rally marks the third day in a row that demonstrators have come out in defense of Furgal, but the number of protesters is diminishing. Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered for the first protest on Saturday, July 11 — the biggest public assembly of its kind in the region’s history, according to media reports. Between 1,000 and 3,000 protesters participated in demonstrations on Sunday, July 12, while hundreds of regional residents took to the streets on Monday, July 13.
The authorities of the Khabarovsk Territory are accusing the non-systemic opposition of provocations. “Among the rally participants there were people who tried to provoke unrest. [Some] of them are simply being ‘hotheads,’ while others might be trying to cash in on the protest. This is how the non-systemic opposition and bloggers, whose number of subscribers grow due to striking content, are racking up points,” reads an official statement on the regional government’s website. The authorities also expressed concern that the demonstrations in the region could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases.
Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev, the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, arrived in Khabarovsk on July 13. His visit wasn’t announced in advance. Trutnev stated that he intends to monitor the work of the regional authorities in the governor’s absence. Trutnev immediately criticized the local government, saying “I believe that the work of the Khabarovsk Territory’s leadership was poorly organized, and I have every reason for this. I have someone to compare with.” The deputy prime minister also noted that residents of the region have the right to express their opinion, and announced that Russia’s authorities are “on the same side of the barricade as all the residents of the Khabarovsk Territory.”
Furgal’s defense attorneys are appealing his arrest, announced his lawyer, Boris Kozhemyakin. That said, the press service for Moscow’s Basmanny District Court told Interfax that they have yet to receive the appeal.
Furgal, who is still formally the Khabarovsk Territory’s sitting governor, could be dismissed by the end of the week. According to Kommersant, the Kremlin has no plans to delay Furgal’s dismissal, but the search for a candidate to fill the position of the region’s acting governor has slowed down the process. Kommersant reports that currently, Moscow is choosing between five candidates.
Translation by Eilish Hart