July 25 (UPI) -- The third straight weekend of Russia's Far East protests against the arrest of a regional governor drew tens of thousands of people Saturday.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in the central Lenin Square by the head of the regional government and marched for 3 miles through the central streets of Khabarovsk, a city 4,000 miles east of Moscow, in a loop returning to the square.
Protesters have been rallying against the detainment in Moscow of Sergei Furgal, 50, the governor of Khabarovsk Krai, each Saturday for three weeks. Furgal was arrested July 9 near his home in Khabarovsk city on suspicion of involvement in multiple murders and taken to Moscow where he as charged with attempted murder and organizing two murders of businessmen in 2004-05. His arrest occurred less than two weeks after a referendum that gave President Vladimir Putin the ability to seek two more terms in office and possibly stay in power until 2036.
A member of the opposition group, the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Furgal took office as governor after winning the 2018 election against Putin's ruling party, United Russia. Demonstrators allege that Furgal's arrest is an attempt to suppress opposition to Putin.
On Saturday, protesters chanted "Freedom!" and "Putin resign!" along with demanding that Furgal face trial in Khabarovsk instead of Moscow.
Putin appointed a 39-year-old politician from outside the region, Mikhail Degtyarev, to replace Furgal as the acting governor Monday. Degtyarev told Interfax news agency, when asked whether he would meet with protesters, that he had better things to do than talk to people "screaming outside the windows."