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Protests against the arrest of the governor remain a challenge for the Kremlin

Tens of thousands of people marched through the Russian city of Khabarovsk to protest the regional governor’s arrest on charges of murder, continuing a wave of demonstrations that lasted two weeks in a challenge to the Kremlin.

ergei Furgal has been in a Moscow prison since his arrest on July 9, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed an acting successor.

Protesters in Khabarovsk, near the border with China, consider the charges against Furgal to be unfounded and demand that he be tried at home.

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Ongoing large-scale protests are seen as a challenge for the Kremlin (Igor Volkov / AP)

Unlike in Moscow, where the police usually act quickly to spread unsanctioned opposition protests, the authorities have not disrupted the demonstrations in Khabarovsk as they apparently expected to disappear over time.

But the daily protests, which peaked over the weekend, have been going on for two weeks now, reflecting the anger at what locals see as the lack of respect for the Moscow governor’s choice and fueled discontent with the reign of Mr. Putin.

Authorities suspect that Furgal was involved in several murders of businessmen in 2004 and 2005. He has denied the allegations, dating back to his time as a businessman with interests focused on wood and metals.

Furgal, a politician on the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party ticket, won the 2018 elections even though he had abandoned campaigning and even publicly supported his Kremlin-backed rival.

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The region’s governor, Sergei Furgal, was arrested on July 9 and is being held in Moscow (Igor Volkov / PA)

His victory was a humiliating setback for the main party of the Kremlin, United Russia, which also lost control of the regional legislature.

During his tenure, Furgal earned a reputation as a ‘people’s governor’, cut his own salary, ordered the sale of an expensive yacht the previous government had bought, and offered new subsidies to the people.

Mikhail Degtyaryov, appointed by Mr Putin as the successor to Furgal on Monday, is also a member of the Liberal Democratic Party – a choice apparently intended to calm local anger.

Degtyaryov did not face the protesters and left town on Saturday for an inspection tour of the region.