Protesters In Russia’s Far East Challenge Putin’s Authority, Demand His Resignation

Artyom Mozgov, 20, is among the thousands of people who have been protesting for two weeks in the Russian city of Khabarovsk, seven time zones east of Moscow on the Chinese border.

“People go out every day without any kind of organization,” Mozgov, a political activist, told NPR. “I’m really happy that people from my region have finally taken responsibility for their lives, understand what’s happening in our country and go out and protest.”

Since July 11, he and other residents have been demanding the release of the former regional governor, Sergei Furgal, who was arrested two days earlier by masked federal agents on charges of organizing contract killings 15 years ago. Furgal, now in pretrial detention in a Moscow prison, maintains his innocence, and locals are demanding he be released and face the charges in his hometown.

The size and durability of the demonstrations are unprecedented for Khabarovsk, a provincial capital with a population of 600,000. For President Vladimir Putin, whose aversion to street protests is well known, they pose an additional challenge as Russia battles the coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn it caused.

On Monday, Putin officially fired Furgal and appointed Mikhail Degtyaryov, a little-known national legislator from the city of Samara, as acting governor.

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