Russian police detain protesters against governor’s arrest

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Russian police on Saturday roughly detained 25 people at a protest backing a jailed former governor in the country’s Far East, in the first harsh crackdown on long-running demonstrations.

The detentions came as demonstrators were holding their 92nd protest in support of former governor Sergei Furgal in the city of Khabarovsk, more than 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) east of Moscow.

The highly unusual wave of protests has been described by some as evidence of growing discontent with Moscow in far-flung regions. Khabarovsk is a city of 600,000 people near the Chinese border.

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Furgal was elected in 2018, defeating an incumbent from the ruling party.

Police in riot gear and armed with batons moved to detain protesters after they set up tents on a lawn and used a sound system to play songs supporting the ex-governor, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

It cited a spokesman for the city council, Ruslan Sokolov, as saying “riot police detained 25 people: 20 men and five women.”

Police hit protesters with batons and one man was carried unconscious into a police van while a woman who fainted lay on the ground, RIA Novosti reported.

At least two journalists and the head of the local campaign office for opposition politician Alexei Navalny were among those detained, wrote OVD Info, which monitors detentions at political protests.

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The protesters could face a criminal charge for repeated breaches of rules on public demonstrations, OVD Info said, citing its lawyers who went to police stations.

Police have not made any official comment.

Supporters of the former governor have been holding regular protests since July when Furgal, a doctor, was detained on suspicion of ordering two murders and one attempted murder a decade earlier, apparently gangland killings.