Police detain protesters in the Russian city from Khabarovsk

MOSCOW — Police at a far eastern Russian city arrested a few dozen protesters on Saturday, the earliest such crackdown since pitted against the arrest of the provincial government began three weeks ago.

Khabarovsk Gov. Sergei Furgal was detained on July 9 on suspicion of involvement in murders and carried to prison in Moscow.

Since his arrest, tens of thousands of demonstrators have frequently rallied in Khabarovsk, a city of 600,000 close to the boundary with China, together with presence rapping on weekends. They protested Furgal’s jailing and required his trial is held at the town.

The protests are a powerful challenge to the Russian authorities, which generally does not hesitate to distribute unsanctioned demonstrations. The authorities’ reluctance to use force seemed to reflect worries of sparking even wider discontent in addition to hopes that the demonstrations will gradually fizzle.

Nevertheless, the normal demonstrations in Khabarovsk have lasted, and their participants have adopted a wider agenda challenging President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

On Saturday, authorities did not intervene while tens of thousands of protesters marched throughout the town but afterward arrested about 30 demonstrators if they put up stalls on Khabarovsk’s central square.

The Kremlin reacted by annexing Ukraine’s Crimea and encouraging a separatist uprising in southern Ukraine, the activities that triggered Western sanctions.

As the day fell Saturday, a few hundred protesters again assembled on Khabarovsk’s principal square. Police warned them that the protest was not approved and they might be dispersed but did not immediately move to divide the rally.