From his chair in sociology, Ildous Yarouline had never seen anything like it. A professor at the University of Khabarovsk, this dean of political science has been observing the unprecedented protests that have rocked this great city in the Russian Far East for nearly a month. On Saturday, some 20,000 residents gathered again, both to support their suddenly arrested ex-regional governor Sergei Fourgal and, more broadly, to protest against the Kremlin regime of Vladimir Putin.
Unprecedented demonstrations. “These crowds are very colorful. Over the weeks, their composition changes: the young and the oldest are the most mobilized; others join the movement when they can but, while supporting more or less, hesitate to invest more “, analysis Ildous Yarouline, 65, of whom around 40 spent in Khabarovsk. “The authorities did not expect a protest of this magnitude. Even if you run out of steam, the groundswell is here to last. “
“The shock of the governor’s arrest was the catalyst”
For two years, in this border city of China on the banks of the Amur River, the ras-le-bol had risen among the some 600,000 inhabitants: drop in income, exasperation against Moscow’s hold on the region, weariness in the face of power lies … “Against a backdrop of socio-economic difficulties, the shock of the governor’s arrest was the catalyst for this anger and frustration”, insists Ildous Yarouline. But, according to the sociologist, this is not just a simple epidermal reaction.
“Khabarovsk protesters are proud to be at the center of national political affairs. This is a new stage in a deep movement that is emerging here and there in Russia. After the protests in Arkhangelsk against a waste factory, in Yekaterinburg against the construction of a cathedral, in Moscow against unopposed local elections, a new civil society emerges. She no longer wants the paternalistic system imposed by the Kremlin. “
More popular than Putin
The slogans from the crowds this weekend in Khabarovsk speak volumes about this determination. ” Freedom “, “Fourgal at home! “, protesters chanted during a march that has become a Saturday ritual since the governor’s incarceration on July 9. That day Sergei Fourgal was brutally arrested outside his home and sent to Moscow. He suddenly finds himself charged with murder in a fifteen-year-old case.
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