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Explained: Protests in Russia’s far east

KHABAROVSK, RUSSIA — For three weeks straight, the streets of Khabarovsk have witnessed tens of thousands of demonstrators protesting the arrest of a popular governor, Sergei Furgal.

The demonstrators were heard chanting “Freedom!” and “Putin resign!”. According to Russian news sources, somewhere between 15,000-50,000 protestors took part in the demonstrations, which is a rare occurrence in Russia and is said to be one of the largest displays of dissent in recent times.

Sergei Furgal, the regional governor of the city of Khabarovsk, was arrested on 9th July for multiple murders that took place in 2004-2005. Many believe the charges were filed recently because Furgal defeated a candidate backed by the government for the post of the regional governor, upsetting President Putin.

Furgal’s sudden arrest seems to be an outlet through which people are exhibiting their frustration and resentment against the government, resulting in an eruption of public outcry and protests.

The protests are also an expression of the far east's sense of detachment from the Moscow-based authorities who are 6110 km and seven time zones away. Although, the government claims that these protests are being fueled by opposition activists outside of Khabarovsk.

The Khabarovsk region waved its flag as residents marched whilst holding up placards and chanting slogans that expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s actions. Alina Slepova, a 24-year-old protester, stated, “We want our governor to be released because we believe he was very likely detained illegally,” and that Furgal was removed by federal officials “for their own purposes, not for the good of our region”.

On Monday, Putin officially fired Furgal, and appointed a lawmaker from the nationalist LDPR party, Mikhail Degtyarev, as his acting replacement. This move was met with disapproval from the residents of the Khabarovsk region who saw Mikhail Degtyarev as an outsider with no association to the region.

The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) is a socially conservative, nationalist, economically interventionist political party in Russia.

Despite the ban on public gatherings, masked police officers allowed the demonstrations to go on. These protests can be seen as a testament to the fact that many Russians are not willing to deal with Putin's antics- at least not anymore.

Reporter- Ananya Sreekumar

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