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Thousands march in support of arrested governor in Russia's far-east

Police detain a protester during a rally supporting Khabarovsk region's governor Sergei Furgal in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020
Police detain a protester during a rally supporting Khabarovsk region's governor Sergei Furgal in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky
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Several thousands took to the streets of Khabarovsk on Saturday, in Russia's extreme far-east, in yet another large-scale demonstration against the arrest of regional governor Sergei Furgal, who was dubbed "the people's governor".

According to sources cited by news agency AFP, tens of thousands joined the rally, while Khabarovsk city hall estimated that only 3,000 people took part.

Despite questions over the scale of Saturday's protest, this is the fifth-consecutive weekend of demonstrations following the arrest of Frugal on July 9 amid charges of involvement in several murders of businessmen in 2004 and 2005, according to Russia's Investigative Committee.

Protesters chanted anti-Kremlin slogans and supported the former governor, who is currently being detained in Moscow.

Elena Ogly, 38, said she wanted to "defend the interests of the region and its citizens who elected their governor".

"We chose him honestly. We love him, we are behind him as a whole".

Another protest took place in another eastern Russian town, Vladivostok, where five people were arrested, according to NGO OVD-Info.

Current anti-government protests are believed to be Russia's largest outside of Moscow in recent years.

Furgal was elected governor in 2018 after scoring a large victory over a Kremlin-backed candidate, and protesters believe his arrest is politically motivated.

They also argue the trial should not take place far from Khabarovsk, a town placed only a few kilometres from China.

Meanwhile, a new acting governor, Mikhail Degtyaryov, who is from the same party as Furgal, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, has been appointed.