Protesters Brave Drenching Rain To Demonstrate In Khabarovsk For 22nd Day
By RFE/RL's Russian Service August 01, 2020
KHABAROVSK, Russia -- Thousands of people braved rainy weather in Russia's Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk on August 1 to attend a fourth weekend of mass demonstrations against President Vladimir Putin's role in a regional political crisis.
There also were similar, but smaller, protests on August 1 in other Far Eastern cities, including Komsomolsk-na-Amur, Vladivostok, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
The demonstrators in Khabarovsk have been showing their support for the Khabarovsk region's jailed former governor, Sergei Furgal.
A member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Furgal was elected by a wide margin in 2018 over the incumbent candidate from Putin's ruling United Russia party.
But on July 9, Furgal was arrested and transferred to a jail in Moscow for what authorities said was suspicion of involvement in several murders in 2004 and 2005.
Furgal was then sacked by Putin, who appointed LDPR member Mikhail Degtyaryov as the Khabarovsk region's acting governor.
Furgal's supporters say the charges against him are politically motivated retribution for his 2018 election defeat of Putin's ally.
The Kremlin says Furgal has serious charges to answer.
The protests highlight growing discontent in the Far East over what demonstrators see as Moscow-dominated policies that often neglect their views and interests.
"The government [in Moscow] doesn't think of us as people," one woman demonstrator told journalists on August 1. "We're scum to them."
Putin's popularity has been declining as the Kremlin tries to deal with an economy suffering from the coronavirus pandemic and years of ongoing international sanctions.
Sheltering from sporadic rain beneath umbrellas on August 1, protesters could be heard chanting, "Freedom!" and "Putin resign!" outside a government building.
One banner at the demonstration read: "Russia without Putin."
Others chanted: "We need the entire country's support," and mocked Russia's state media for failing to report on their demonstrations and grievances.
"Shame on the Russian media," protesters chanted.
Municipal officials said they estimated the crowd at about 3,500 people.
Some local media put the number above 10,000 protesters but said the crowds were smaller than in previous weeks.
Sustained demonstrations against the government in Moscow are unusual for Russia's regions, as is a lack of response from authorities to break them up.
With additional reporting from Current Time and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|