Rallies In Russia's Khabarovsk Continue As Protesters Target Anger At Newly Appointed Governor
By Siberia Desk, RFE/RL's Russian Service July 21, 2020
KHABAROVSK, Russia -- Hundreds of supporters of the arrested ex-governor of Russia's Far Eastern Khabarovsk region, Sergei Furgal, rallied for an 11th day in the regional capital, denouncing newly appointed acting Governor Mikhail Degtyaryov.
The protesters gathered on July 21 in Khabarovsk in front of the regional government building and then marched across the city, chanting, "Degtyaryov, come out!"
Degtyaryov, was appointed to the post by President Vladimir Putin a day earlier. He arrived in Khabarovsk on the morning of July 21 but did not show up to meet the protesters.
Earlier in the day, Degtyaryov met with the region's officials for the first time and said that his main priority is to increase efforts to slow down the spread of the coronavirus in the region and become familiar with local social and economic issues.
Putin fired Furgal on July 20 before appointing Degtyaryov to the post. Both are members of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR).
Protesters also expressed their anger over the new appointment online with more than 1,300 comments under Degtyaryov's latest Instagram post, the majority of which appeared to criticize the acting governor.
Also on July 21, two local lawmakers, Pyotr Yemelyanov and Aleksandr Kayan, quit the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia to protest Furgal's firing.
Furgal, who was arrested in Khabarovsk on July 9 and transferred to Moscow, is charged with attempted murder and 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 for 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.
Such sizable demonstrations far from the Russian capital are a rare public show of defiance against the Kremlin and come following a controversial nationwide vote that set the stage for Putin to remain in power until 2036.
Authorities are said to be unnerved by the protests, with the regional capital's mayor calling for calm and saying such rallies were illegal and could help accelerate the spread of the coronavirus.
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) had also warned of an alleged terrorist threat involving explosives, which it claimed to have already foiled.
In addition, the authorities in the Khabarovsk region said they were considering a return to strict quarantine measures and attributed this to the "difficult situation with the spread of the coronavirus infection."
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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