Protests against governor’s arrest continue in challenge to Kremlin

Protests against governor’s arrest continue in challenge to Kremlin”

Some thousands marched across Khabarovsk to protest the arrest of the region's governor on murder charges, continuing a wave of protests that has lasted for two weeks.

Residents of Khabarovsk, around 6,110km and seven time zones east of Moscow, are unhappy about the detention this month of the wider region's popular governor, Sergei Furgal, who was arrested on murder charges he denies.

Demonstrators say they want Furgal, who they think has been set up, to be flown back from Moscow and put on trial in Khabarovsk.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed claims of foreign interference but said the protests were a "nutrient. for troublemakers" and pseudo-opposition activists. Attempts to discourage people from joining the marches by citing coronavirus risks have proven unsuccessful.

But daily protests, peaking on weekends, have gone on for two weeks, reflecting anger at what residents see as Moscow's disrespect of their choice for governor and simmering discontent with Putin's rule.

The Chinese authorities are interested in restoring aviation service with Russia, expect reciprocal efforts from the Russian side and are ready to create more favorable conditions for worldwide flights, press service of China's Foreign Ministry said. "Bring him here, and a fair and open trial will decide whether to convict him or not".

More news: Canada’s entertainment industry is losing millions due to the coronavirus pandemic

Demonstrations were also held in other cities of the Far East, and police didn't intervene.

Russia's Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said Furgal was charged with ordering the murders and attempted murders of several businessmen in 2004 and 2005.

Critics say the case is politically motivated after Furgal was elected with a large majority in 2018 in an embarrassing defeat for a candidate of the ruling party backed by Putin. His election was a humiliating blow for Putin's United Russia party, which has been losing seats in regional administrations over the last few years.

"We want to protect Furgal", Evgenia Selina, who joined Saturday's protest, said. "He would have had a normal life".

Mikhail Degtyaryov, appointed by Mr Putin on Monday as Furgal's successor, is also a member of the Liberal Democratic Party - a choice that was apparently meant to calm the local anger. If that was the plan, it hasn't worked. But protesters said they felt insulted by the choice of Mikhail Degtyaryov, who has no connection with the region, and have demanded he step down.

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