Support The Moscow Times!

Jailed Russian Governor Asks Supporters to Stop Protests – Lawyer

Demonstrations have erupted nearly every day in the Khabarovsk region since the region's governor was detained last week. Yevgeniya Pustovit / TASS

A popular governor arrested in an old murder case says he wants supporters to end mass protests that have rocked Russia's Far East, his lawyer said Thursday.

Sergei Furgal, who was detained last week and flown to Moscow before being accused of involvement in several 15-year-old murders, unsuccessfully appealed his arrest in court Thursday.

Demonstrations have erupted nearly every day in the Khabarovsk region which Furgal still formally heads as residents demand Moscow return him to face any charges locally.

His lawyer Boris Kozhemyakin told journalists outside the courthouse that while the 50-year-old governor appreciates the support, he does not endorse unauthorized gatherings.

"Sergei Furgal has nothing to do with the demonstrations of residents of Khabarovsk, his voters," Kozhemyakin said.

"He thanks them, but today in court he said he does not approve of these mass actions, as he is the region's governor, and he believes his voters should act in accordance with existing legislation," the lawyer added.

Crowds estimated in the tens of thousands marched through Khabarovsk at the weekend and hundreds have continued to rally this week, while smaller protests were held in other towns in the region.

A huge rally has been called for Saturday.

Elected with a large majority in 2018, Furgal, who is a member of the nationalist Liberal-Democratic Party, delivered a major upset to a candidate of the majority United Russia party.

Many of the protesters believe the charges are politically motivated and question why investigators waited so long to accuse a public official who should have undergone background checks.

Investigators say Furgal organized the murders of several businessmen in the Far East in 2004 and 2005.

In a fresh statement on Thursday, Russia's Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said it had "irrefutable evidence" of Furgal's involvement.

It named for the first time the businessmen who were killed as Yevgeny Zorya and Oleg Bulatov, while another man Alexander Smolsky had an attempt made on his life.

"It is clear to the investigation that the decisions regarding the murders were taken as Furgal and his co-conspirators sought to further their commercial interests," the committee said.

Moscow prison monitor Yeva Merkachova said on Thursday that she visited Furgal and another detainee in the case named Nikolai Mistryukov, who has given testimony against the governor.

In a post on Facebook, Merkachova said that Mistryukov is in very poor health after losing vision in one eye and being refused crucial cancer medication.

"He is psychologically beaten and has a most serious diagnosis," she said, calling his treatment a "crime."

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more