The Ukrainian Trace Was Discovered in the Khabarovsk Protests

Tens of thousands of residents of Khabarovsk, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, and Bikin went to a rally on Saturday in support of the Governor of the Khabarovsk territory Sergey Furgal, who was arrested the day before on suspicion of organising a series of murders (a man with a “stormy biography in the 90s” won the election two years ago as a candidate from the LDPR unexpectedly for the Center, disrupting plans for the monopoly of “United Russia” in the region).

According to the regional Interior Ministry, about 12,000 people took part in actions in support of Furgal, while local media reported about 35,000 protesters.

Also, law enforcement and the conditional organisers of the protest action had disagreements, in fact, about who is its organiser: the regional Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that it is “Furgal’s team”, and in turn, the Press Secretary of Sergey Furgal, Nadezhda Tomchenko, said that the events were organised spontaneously through social networks.

The spontaneity of the protests is hard to believe, given the professional banners and posters in support of Furgal. In any case, the demonstrations turned out to be on Moscow-scale and with harsh slogans – up to demands for the resignation of President Vladimir Putin, which the crowd chanted.

The position of the LDPR, whose leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky threatened a “revolutionary situation” in the State Duma in connection with the arrest of Sergey Furgal, is interesting. Now the party has simply disowned the protest.

“The LDPR did not organise unauthorised actions on the Khabarovsk territory,” the party statement said. “We are a parliamentary party and act only within the law. We are ready for talks and any discussion, but not for unauthorised street actions. There have been no illegal actions by the LDPR, and there will not be any.”

Nevertheless, the participants of the rally still took to the streets, chanting “Furgal – home!” and “Freedom for Furgal!”, and despite the ban on mass actions, most of them were without medical masks.

In Khabarovsk, the demonstrators pushed back the metal fences and went to the Central Lenin Square, where they started collecting signatures demanding that Furgal be released. The police, however, did not hinder the protesters in any way, and there were no detentions either.

Political scientist Ilya Grashchenkov believes that the federal center is in a difficult situation, because even if Furgal has problems with the security forces, the population perceives him as a “people’s governor”.

The expert believes that local residents at the elections in the autumn of 2018 “realised that their vote is worth something, and they can independently change the government.”

“Yes, it is obvious that Furgal’s arrival was sponsored by local elites, but the ground for his election was prepared by the government itself, putting forward the unpopular and annoying Shport. Having won in the second round with 70% of the vote, Furgal only increased confidence over the year (in 2019, he was approved by almost 80% of Khabarovsk residents), which allowed him to win elections for the LDPR party in all city councils and the legislative assembly. Therefore, no one could really give an answer to the question of how to safely remove Furgal from power. It was obvious that everything that is happening today in Khabarovsk is inevitable when you take down the ‘people’s governor’….It is not yet a fact that the Khabarovsk protest will not have an impact on regional politics as a whole. Elections this year and next year promise to be protest, and the LDPR and Zhirinovsky, who feel a shift in the political paradigm, may well take advantage of the situation to return the status of the ‘second party’ in parliament,” says Grashchenkov.

“Protest rallies in Khabarovsk are a very useful political phenomenon,” commented Russian political scientist Semyon Uralov. “Firstly, the evidence base for the accused will be more effective and convincing. You can’t just watch TV. Secondly, it will show our neighbours and allies that the protest does not have to be crushed, and all the protesters will be slapped with fines, which leads to even greater alienation. Thirdly, competition expands the market and forces the system to move, to not relax in the quiet of the offices.”

It is symptomatic that what happened on the Khabarovsk territory was reacted to in Ukraine, which, according to pretentious nationalist myths, considers this territory of the Far East to be a “Green Wedge” with residents who are descendants of Ukrainian immigrants.

“Freedom-loving Ukrainians are raising an uprising in the Far East. A rally of thousands in Khabarovsk chants ‘Freedom!’, ‘Putin is a thief’, and ‘Moscow – go away!’. In Russia, there is a powerful Ukrainian fifth column, which Ukraine is simply obliged to support!” said the lawyer of the Ukrainian nationalist party “Svoboda” Sidor Kizin, a deputy of the Zhytomyr Regional Council.

Vadim Egorov

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