Sergei Furgal protests: Putin chooses new governor after murder allegation


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Media caption“We are protesting because our governor has been stolen from us”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed a new acting governor for the Khabarovsk region after days of protests.

Governor Sergei Furgal was arrested for murder on July 9, sparking protests in the Far Eastern province.

His supporters believe the charges against him are politically motivated.

Some 10,000 people are believed to have come out to protest Saturday’s arrest – one of the biggest protests in Russia in years.

The protests come just weeks after Mr. Putin gained support for major constitutional reforms in a national referendum, which allowed him to stay in power for two more terms – raising fears of repression by the opposition.

  • Arrest fuels anger in the Russian Far East
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President Putin formally removed Furgal from his post on Monday and appointed Mikhail Degtyaryov as the region’s interim head.

Mr. Degtyaryov is a member of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), as is Mr. Furgal.

The LDPR is an opposition party, although it is generally considered to be loyal to the Kremlin. Mr Furgal has proven to be popular in the region, however, winning the governorship in 2018 by a landslide – beating a candidate from Mr Putin’s own party.

The Russian electoral commission said there would be a new regional vote to elect a new governor in September 2021.

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Thousands protest against Governor Sergei Furgal’s arrest

Officials came from the Russian capital earlier this month in person to arrest Mr Furgal.

He is accused of having organized two murders and an attempted murder of businessmen in 2004-05 while working in the metal trade.

The former governor, who denies all charges, is now sitting in a Moscow prison and could face life behind bars.

The residents of Khabarovsk took to the streets to demand his release. The demonstrators wonder why the authorities took 15 years to indict Mr. Furgal and chanted “Putin, resign” and “Freedom” during their marches.

Authorities downplayed the scenes in the Far East but did not try to stop them.

Russia is overwhelmingly supportive of constitutional reforms granting Mr. Putin the opportunity to run for two other terms earlier this month.

Opposition members denounced the vote as an attempt by Mr. Putin to be “president for life” – an assertion that he rejected. Copies of the new constitution appeared in Russian bookstores before the vote ended.

Mr Furgal’s arrest also comes shortly after the arrest of former journalist Ivan Safronov, following allegations that he passed on official secrets to a NATO country.

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