MOSCOW – Thousands of people marched in the Russian far eastern city of Khabarovsk on Saturday for the third weekend in a row, protesting at President Vladimir Putin’s handling of a regional political crisis that has sparked demonstrations.
Residents of the city, around 3,800 miles and seven time zones east of Moscow, are unhappy about the July 9 detention of the wider region’s popular regional governor, Sergei Furgal, who was arrested on murder charges he denies.
His detention, which his supporters say was politically motivated, has triggered more than two weeks of street protests, creating a headache for the Kremlin which is trying to troubleshoot a sharp COVID-19-induced drop in real incomes and keep a lid on unrest as the economy stutters.
Footage of the protest showed people chanting “Disgrace!” and slogans demanding Putin resign because local people had lost trust in him.
City authorities estimated around 6,500 people had taken part. Local media put the number at up to 20,000 people.
The protests have highlighted anger among some in the far east over what they see as policies emanating from detached Moscow-based authorities on the other side of the country.
Supporters of Furgal, the arrested governor and a member of the nationalist LDPR party, feel he is being belatedly punished for defeating a candidate from the ruling pro-Putin United Russia party in 2018. The Kremlin says Furgal has serious charges to answer.
Such sustained demonstrations are unusual for Russia’s regions, as is the fact that the authorities have not yet moved to break them up.
In an apparent move to defuse tensions, Putin on Monday named a new acting governor to head the region. But protesters said they felt insulted by the choice of Mikhail Degtyaryov, who has no connection with the region, and have called on him to step down too