On July 13, protests against the government and in support of the detained the government of the Khabarosvk region, Sergei Furgal, continued in Russia’s Far East for the third day. Hundreds gathered in Khabarovsk city for another rally chanting “Furgal is our choice” and demanding to release the detained person.
Last week, Furgal was detained and was removed from his post. He’s suspected of organizing of killings of several businessmen by an organized criminal group in 2004-2005. Immediately after his detention, the part of the regional and federal elits linked with Furgal launched a protest and media campaign in an attempt to pressure the Investigative Committee to release the suspect by labeling the case as ‘political’ and ‘unlawful’.
One of the features of the protests in Khabarovks is a wide coverage of the situation in Western mainstream and Russian neo-liberal media. All of them expectedly cover the situation as a ‘political case’ ignoring the investigation regarding the organization of murders by the suspect. The radical neo-liberal and pro-Western part of the Russian ‘opposition’ also jained the cause by supporting the criminal.
The media campaign employs hashtag “ЯМыФургал” (IWeFurgal), which refers to previous anti-government protests held by the neo-liberal opposition in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Posts and videos in social media promote Furgal as a ‘professional governor’ that made a lot to the region, demonstrate the supposed ‘standoff’ between Furgal and Putin (in order to politize the case), and create a picture like the entire region is now protesting (in fact, several thousands of people participated in the protests in the peak days – during the weekend). These trends are mixed with various fake news and propaganda videos designed to strengthen the perception of the situation as a persecution of a local patriot by the ‘corrupt regime’.
The interesting fact is that the image of Furgal as a ‘patriot’ does not correspond with the public facts. The Furgal family controls the ‘Amurstal’ metallurgical plant, the biggest metallurgical plant in Russia’s Far East. 25% of ‘Amurstal’ directly belongs to the wife of Furgal – Larisa Starodubova. The Furgal family and its circle have been actively withdrawing their capital aboard – to China and South Korea – through a number of business entities registered there (Neomaks Business Limited Records, Kyung Won Trading Co., Kyungwon Networks Co.Ltd Records, Zibo Intco Framing Products Co.Ltd Records, Zelfera Development S.A. Records).
Meanwhile, the strange situation continues to be observed in the Chinese-controlled social media network Tik Tok. Previously, it was already noted that Tik Tok does not delete political videos shared by the pro-Furgal bot network. This posture goes contrary to the general behaviour of the social network. Contrary, Tik Tok even indirectly promotes such content. This situation allows to suggest that China is exploiting the current instability in the Khabarovsk region in order to get a better negotiation position in its strategic partnership with Russia.
At the same time, the current instability in Khabarovsk showcases weak spots in the Russian governance system, when regional elites appear to be able instigate instability in order to achieve own tactical political and financial goals that often go contrary to the interests of the state.
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