Russian President Vladimir Putin, on Monday, appointed a new acting governor to head Russia's Far Eastern region of Khabarovsk, after Sergei Furgal, the region's previous head was arrested on charges of murder.
The arrest sparked off a wave of protests in the region. Nearly 10,000 demonstrators gathered in Khabarovsk on Saturday and demanded Moscow to release the arrested governor's release. Frugal, who is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), swept the elections in 2018 after defeating a rival from the pro-Putin ruling party.
Kremlin Plays Down Protests
Furgal, born in Russia's Far East, was detained on July 9 and flown to Moscow to face charges over the murder and attempted murder of multiple businessmen 15 years ago. He denies wrongdoing. Protests broke out soon afterward and have continued for over a week. Their size is unusual for Russia's regions, as is the fact that the authorities have not yet moved to break them up.
Putin on Monday formally removed Furgal from his post and appointed Mikhail Degtyaryov, 39, a lawmaker and also an LDPR member, to take over as the acting head of the region, according to a decree published on the Kremlin website.
The Kremlin has so far publicly played down the protests which have highlighted anger among some in the Far East over what they see as policies emanating from detached federal authorities located in Moscow seven time zones to the west.
A Detached Kremlin Appointee
The unrest also comes less than three weeks after Russians voted to back a set of sweeping reforms clearing the way for Putin to run for two more presidential terms, potentially remaining in the Kremlin until 2036 rather than stepping down in 2024.
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, whose allies in the region have backed the demonstrations, cast Degtyaryov as a detached Kremlin appointee whose selection he predicted would fail to appease protesters. Khabarovsk will hold regional elections to choose a fully-fledged new governor in September next year, Russia's election commission said.
(With inputs from agencies)