Still happening For six consecutive Saturday, thousands march in Khabarovsk in support of ousted governor
Protesters in Khabarovsk have held regular mass demonstrations for more than a month in support of former Governor Sergey Furgal. On August 15, for the sixth consecutive Saturday, a large crowd of people marched through the center of the city toward the regional government’s office in Lenin Square (locals call it the White House). City officials reported a “significant decline” in the number of protesters. “Ten times fewer people came out today than for the first rally. [...] This is the sixth straight week we’ve seen less and less activity from the public,” said spokespeople for the mayor’s office. According to the news agency Baikal 24, however, the crowd was just as big as it’s ever been, stretching nearly a mile and comprising roughly 30,000 people.
Demonstrators in Khabarovsk expressed solidarity with protesters in Belarus. Some activists carried signs that read “Long live Belarus!” and chanted slogans of solidarity with the Belarusian opposition. In Minsk, some protesters have also been spotted with signs that read: “Khabarovsk, we’re with you!” In another nod to the tactics now being utilized in Belarus, some demonstrators in Khabarovsk have started calling for a general strike.
Protesters demand that Furgal’s trial take place in Khabarovsk (he’s currently being held in Moscow). And they want a jury. Demonstrators also expressed opposition to the man President Putin appointed to replace Furgal, Acting Governor Mikhail Degtyarev, who says he’s been getting requests from residents to put a stop to city’s mass rallies. According to Degtyarev, there are two dozen or so people who protest every day. In banners on August 15, demonstrators responded: “There aren’t a few dozen of us, but tens of thousands!”
A day before Saturday’s march, lawyers announced that one of the suspects in Furgal’s case was beaten up in jail. Andrey Karepov, one of four suspects in the case, was attacked by masked men at a detention center and en route to an Investigative Committee facility, says his defense attorney. Journalist and Public Monitoring Commission member Eva Merkacheva previously told the news agency Interfax that doctors diagnosed Karepov with injuries to his head and shoulders, but the authorities declined to hospitalize him. Officials from the Federal Penitentiary Service say Karepov was injured before his arrest.
Sergey Furgal is charged with ordering contract killings of business rivals. Still governor, he was arrested on July 9, transferred to Moscow, and jailed at the Lefortovo detention center. According to state investigators, Furgal hired men to kill two entrepreneurs and attack a third competitor in 2004 and 2005. Around the time, he worked in the lumber and scrap metal trades. Furgal’s former business partner, Nikolai Mistryukov, testified against him after months in jail.