Several thousand demonstrators marched on Saturday August 8 in Khabarovsk, the largest city in the Russian Far East, shaken by large rallies since the arrest on July 9 of regional governor Sergei Fourgal.
For the fifth weekend in a row, protesters roamed the streets of this near-Chinese city, chanting anti-Kremlin slogans and in support of the former governor of the region, transferred and imprisoned in Moscow.
Khabarovsk residents demonstrate en masse every Saturday, in addition to smaller daily rallies. This protest movement against the government has been the largest for several years in Russia outside of Moscow.
Very popular, Sergei Fourgal, 50, was one of the few regional leaders with political weight of his own: deputy since 2007 of the ultranationalist party LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party), he won the election for governor in 2018, beating the Kremlin candidate. Before entering politics, he was a doctor and businessman, particularly in the wood and metal trade with China.
Local elections in September
Locals believe his arrest for alleged murders in 2004-2005 is politically motivated. For them, the arrest of Mr. Fourgal must first be understood as a signal sent to members of the regional executive: if they had to assume most of the responsibility during the coronavirus crisis, with a Vladimir Poutin largely erased, it is time to fall into line. This message is all the more important given that local elections are looming in September.
According to journalists from Agence France-Presse (AFP) on the spot, the demonstration brought together tens of thousands of demonstrators, while the Khabarovsk town hall estimated that only 3,000 people were displaced.
Elena Ogly, 38, told AFP she wanted “Defend the interests of the region and its citizens who have elected their governor”. “We chose him honestly. We love him, we are behind him as a whole. It will stop when the president gives us an answer, or it will never stop ”, says this beauty salon director.
According to the NGO OVD-Info, five people were arrested on Saturday in Vladivostok, another large city in the Russian Far East.