Around 10,000 people, on Saturday, took to the streets of the Russian city of Khabarovsk demanding the release of regional governor Sergei Furgal, who was taken into custody last week on suspicion of murder.
Furgal, who is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, served as the governor of the Khabarovsk region after he swept the elections in 2018 and defeated a member of the ruling United Russia party that supports President Vladimir Putin.
Second Week of Protests
The governor was taken to Moscow last week, where he is now in pre-trial detention after being charged with involvement in organizing the murder of multiple businessmen 15 years ago. He could face up to life in prison if found guilty of the charges, which also include involvement in an attempted murder. He denies the charges.
Demonstrators packed a city thoroughfare on a sweltering Saturday afternoon, carrying posters in support of Furgal, some demanding his release, others calling for an open and transparent trial, with the column of marchers stretching into the horizon.
Svetlana, a middle-aged woman wearing a face mask, said residents were not put off by the accusations against Furgal. Many Russian politicians have a dark past, she said, as the final years of the Soviet Union were riddled with corruption and crime. "People came out here to defend their voting rights: We elected him, so return him to us," she said.
Protest Follows Putin's Presidential Amendment
The protests come barely three weeks after a landslide referendum victory for the Kremlin on amendments to the constitution, allowing Putin to remain in power for another 16 years. Dozens were arrested in Moscow last week after a few hundred protested against the amendments.
Last Saturday, between 10,000-12,000 people took part in an unsanctioned march in Khabarovsk, the local branch of the interior ministry said in a statement. The city is a seven-hour flight east of the capital. This Saturday, fewer than 10,000 marched, the city mayor's office said in a statement, adding that the protest was peaceful and there were no detentions. Some local news outlets estimated the number was significantly higher.
(With inputs from agencies)