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Thousands rally against Putin for fifth Saturday in a row

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Khabarovsk, a city in Russia’s far east, to protest President Vladimir Putin for a fifth consecutive weekend.

The rallies in the city of some 600,000 people on the border with China is a major show of defiance against Moscow’s policies, observers say.

The demonstrations were sparked by the sudden arrest of Khabarovsk’s popular governor in a murder probe. Protesters demand that regional governor Sergei Furgal be either released or tried in Khabarovsk.

Putin last month dismissed Furgal over a “loss of confidence” in his ability to govern and appointed a controversial new official in his place.

Protesters said they were incensed by what they call a blatant disregard for their feelings and opinions.

In recent weeks people in a number of Russian cities and towns took to the streets in support of Khabarovsk protesters but those rallies were not massive.

Several Moscow-based activists have called on Russians to take to the streets across the country on August 15.

In a statement, regional authorities claimed turnout at Khabarovsk rallies has been going down and said that just 2,800 people turned up in the city’s central square on Saturday.

But witnesses and participants said that tens of thousands took part in a march across the city.

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