The governor of Khabarovsk region, Sergey Furgal, one of four heads of regions elected in 2018 against the will of the Kremlin, was detained on Thursday morning.
According to Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the Russian Investigative Committee Furgal, who is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia(LDPR) party and a former State Duma deputy with 10 years of experience, is suspected of organizing murders of entrepreneurs in the Khabarovsk and the Amur regions in 2004-2005.
"In this case, in addition to Furgal, four active members of the organized group were previously detained and arrested. They are charged, depending on each one’s role, of the commission of crimes," Petrenko said.
Furgal is charged with the murder of two or more persons, the murder of a person or his loved ones during his or her official duties, murder for self-interest or employment, robbery, extortion or banditry, as well as preparation for these crimes and the attempted murder.
Furgal can become a defendant in a criminal case on the organization of the criminal community (Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), a law enforcement source told Russian news agency TASS. The governor will be dismissed due to the loss of confidence of the President.
Furgal has been registered with the Russian Interior Ministry since the 1990s for links to the organized criminal community, said Alexander Hinstein, head of the Russian State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technology and Communications.
"I am not surprised by Furgal's arrest: I am surprised that it is so late. In the operational records of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, he has been mentioned since the 1990s, as being connected to the criminal organization "the Community". The criminal authority Timoha, who was detained and convicted in 2011, was his assistant. As an MP, he continued to engage in questionable business (metal processing)," tweeted Hinstein.
RBC news agency reported, citing sources close to the investigation, that the testimony against Furgal was given by his former business partner Nikolai Mistryukov, who concluded a pre-trial agreement. Furgal's apartment was searched and ammunition was found. If found guilty, he faces up to life in prison.
“Those accused of murdering businessmen in the Far East testified that Furgal was the organizer of crimes,” Petrenko said. According to her, the testimony was obtained as a result of "correct investigative tactics."
The case against Furgal concerns the murders of Khabarovsk businessmen Evgeny Sori (2004) and Oleg Bulatov (2005), as well as the attempted murder of businessman Alexander Smolsky in the Amur region, reported Interfax citing its sources.
More than 20,000 signatures have been collected on in support Furgal on Change.org. "It is no secret that Sergey Furgal has become a bone in the throat for United Russia, and they are trying by all means to overthrow him from the post of governor of Khabarovsk region," the petition reads.
"On behalf of the people of Khabarovsk region, we want to support Sergey Ivanovich and prevent his resignation. In such a short period of time, he showed that he is the governor for the people, not the public display, and the people will stand up for him. And now, when the people saw that the power can still be for the people, they throw us a new punch by remove the people's governor from office, deciding to put him in jail as part of the investigation of the multi-episode case against the organized criminal group," the statement reads.