Thousands of demonstrators have gathered again for a fifth week in Russia’s southeastern city of Khabarovsk to denounce the arrest of the region’s governor a month ago.
Sergei Furgal was arrested on July 9 on suspicion of involvement in murders and taken to jail in Moscow, triggering protests that are posing a direct challenge to the Kremlin.
The estimated 3,000 demonstrators on Saturday protested against the charges, believing them to be politically motivated, and want Furgal returned to the city for trial.
The Investigative Committee, Russia’s main criminal investigation agency, said Furgal is accused of involvement in the murders of several businessmen in the region and nearby territories in 2004 and 2005.
Furgal has denied the charges.
The governor, who has been removed from his post, is a popular figure in the region bordering China about 6,100km (3,700 miles) east of Moscow.
Since his arrest, daily demonstrations have been held in the city, with attendance peaking on weekends.
Demonstrations in support of the Khabarovsk protesters were also held in at least seven other cities in Russia.
The OVD-Info organisation that monitors political arrests said at least 10 people were arrested in those demonstrations.
No arrests were reported in Khabarovsk, where authorities have not interfered with the demonstrations, apparently hoping they will fizzle out.
Before defeating a Kremlin-backed rival to win the governor’s seat in 2018, Furgal served as a federal legislator for about 10 years on the Liberal Democratic Party ticket.
Like the rest of his party, Furgal has never challenged federal government policy, but his unexpected victory in the gubernatorial election dealt a humiliating blow to the main Kremlin party, United Russia.
Russia: Thousands protest against Kremlin for fourth week