Sun, 13 Jun 2021

KHABAROVSK, Russia -- Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Russia's Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk to protest against the arrest of their regional governor on murder charges.

Supporters of Sergei Furgal on July 11 gathered on the central Lenin Square for a spontaneous demonstration before marching toward Komsomolskaya Square, carrying posters with slogans such as 'I Am Sergei Furgal' and 'Free Furgal.'

Participants shouted, 'Shame on Moscow!', 'Putin's a thief!', and 'Down with the tsar!" -- references to President Vladimir Putin.

Similar rallies were held in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Elban, Solnechny, and other cities in the region.

The demonstrations come a day after a Moscow court ordered the 50-year-old Furgal held in pretrial detention for two months.

SEE ALSO: United Russia's Revenge? Far Eastern Governor's Arrest Raises Suspicions

Furgal has pleaded not guilty to ordering the murders and attempted murders of several businessmen in 2004 and 2005.

A member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Furgal was detained by the Investigative Committee on July 9, sparking outrage from his party.

LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky told the State Duma on July 9 that the LDPR faction in parliament was "ready to resign in protest" against the arrest.

'Let the whole world learn what a mess this country is,' Zhirinovsky told the parliament's lower chamber earlier this week.

Furgal beat incumbent Vyacheslav Shport in the 2018 election in a major upset of the ruling United Russia party.

SEE ALSO: Russian Governor Charged With Ordering Murders Sent To Pretrial Detention

Also on July 10, two lawmakers in the Khabarovsk region, also members of LDPR, were arrested on fraud charges and will be held in custody until September, a district court representative was quoted as saying.

The two lawmakers, Sergei Kuznetsov and Dmitry Kozlov, deputy chairman of the regional parliament, used to run the Amurstal steel plant.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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