Rallies In Khabarovsk Continue As Protesters Demand Putin's Resignation
By Siberia Desk, RFE/RL's Russian Service July 22, 2020
KHABAROVSK, Russia -- Hundreds of supporters of the arrested ex-governor of Russia's Far Eastern Khabarovsk Krai region, Sergei Furgal, have rallied for a 12th day, this time demanding the resignation of the country's president, Vladimir Putin.
The demonstrators gathered on the central square in the regional capital, Khabarovsk, on July 22, chanting "Putin must resign" and "No trust in 20 years," referring to Putin's ruling the country as president or prime minister since 1999.
Police were present at the rally but did not interfere as the protesters made their way across the city chanting slogans denouncing the newly appointed acting governor of the region, Mikhail Degtyaryov.
Degtyaryov was appointed by Putin, on July 20. He arrived in Khabarovsk on the morning of July 21, but did not meet with the protesters, who were demonstrating at the time against his appointment.
Degtyaryov posted a video statement on his Instagram account on July 22 saying that he eas not going to leave Khabarovsk and that he wished Furgal all the best in his upcoming trial. He added that there "must be someone" behind the ongoing protests, though he did not specify who.
Degtyaryov's statement on Instagram sparked a huge wave of criticism online.
Putin fired Furgal on July 20 before appointing Degtyaryov to the post. Both are members of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR).
On July 21, two local lawmakers, Pyotr Yemelyanov and Aleksandr Kayan, quit the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia to protest Furgal's dismissal from office.
Furgal, who was arrested in Khabarovsk on July 9 and transferred to Moscow, is charged with attempted murder and for ordering two murders in 2004-2005. He denies the allegations.
He 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 sizeable 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 have been 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.
Authorities in Khabarovsk region have also said they were considering a return to strict quarantine measures and attributed this to the "difficult situation with the spread of 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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