Russia's far eastern city of Khabarovsk saw widespread protests against President Vladimir Putin on Saturday. Thousands of people took to the streets condemning Putin's handling of a regional political crisis and the suspected poisoning of his most vocal critic.

"Putin, have some tea," protesters chanted as they marched on the city's main thoroughfare, in a reference to the case of opposition politician Alexei Navalny who fell gravely ill this month after drinking a cup of tea at an airport cafe, Reuters reported.

Navalny, 44, was airlifted to Germany last week after collapsing during a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk. He is now in a medically-induced coma in a Berlin hospital.

Alexei Navalny
Alexei Navalny Twitter

Residents of Khabarovsk, about 6,110 km (3,800 miles) east of Moscow, started holding weekly rallies after the July 9 detention of Sergei Furgal, the region's popular governor, over murder charges he denies.

His supporters say the detention is politically motivated. At the rally, they brandished posters denouncing "repression" and "dictatorship" and demanded that Furgal be released and allowed to return to the city.

Some also expressed solidarity with opponents of Belarusian leader and long-time Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko who have been staging public protests for weeks over vote-rigging accusations in the Aug.9 presidential election.

Growing Speculation

As previously reported, the 44-year-old anti-corruption activist was on a flight to Tomsk when he fell ill and started screaming in pain, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Omsk.

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He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he remained in a coma and strapped to a ventilator fighting for his life. According to Navalny's Press Secretary Kira Yarmysh, he was poisoned with toxins that were mixed in his morning tea he consumed at the airport.

There is growing speculation that Navalny was targeted in an assassination attempt and authorities are not trying to cover their tracks, particularly after his personal attending physician and a fellow opposition activist, Anastasia Vasilyeva, were denied access to his medical records and the intensive care unit where he was being treated. Only his wife, Yulia, was allowed "delayed" access.

(With inputs from Reuters)