Thousands marched in Russia’s far eastern city of Khabarovsk on Saturday in support of its regional governor, who is being held in pre-trial detention after being charged with organising the murder of several entrepreneurs 15 years ago.
Observers in the city of Khabarovsk spoke of the biggest protest in years, with demonstrators said to have taken to the streets and squares chanting “Freedom,” “Moscow, go away” and “Putin is a thief.”
Local media outlets reported that the demonstrations were largely peaceful and there were no arrests.
A spokeswoman for the governor, Nadezhda Tomchenko, took to Instagram to thank the demonstrators for their support.
She wrote that the region had seldom experienced such unanimity and directly addressed the demonstrators, telling them: “We are sure you will be heard.”
Furgal, who has pleaded innocent, was elected governor of Khabarovsk, which borders China, two years ago in an upset of the long-time incumbent who had represented the ruling United Russia party.
“He is considered the organiser of an attempted murder and the murder of a number of business people in 2004 and 2005,’’ the Investigative Committee said in a statement.
Furgal’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) has denounced the murder charges as politically motivated.
“This is a very big political case,” LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said after Furgal was detained on Thursday.