MOSCOW, December 17 (RAPSI) – A criminal case against ex-Governor of Russia’s Khabarovsk Krai Sergey Furgal is not politically motivated, according to President Vladimir Putin.

Accusations against him as a gang member are very serious; the matter is murders but not abuse of office or theft. This is not a political repression, this is a criminal case, Putin said during his annual news conference on Thursday.

The Head of the State stressed that Russia’s law enforcement and justice system must abstract from the political bias and treat all criminal case defendants equally.

In late November, the Basmanny District Court of Moscow extended detention of Furgal until March 9.

Investigators believe Furgal took decisions to commit the crimes in order to move forward his personal business interests. According to the Investigative Committee, the murder of entrepreneur Yevgeny Zorya was connected with a long conflict with Furgal and court proceedings over a concrete plant purchased by Zorya. The victim had been killed a day before an obvious verdict was delivered, investigators state.

One more alleged victim of Furgal was his partner Oleg Bulatov. After his murder, the defendant acquired his share in their common business, a company engaged in buy-in and resale of scrap iron, , according to the investigation.

Investigators claim that the former Governor of Russia’s Khabarovsk Krai was involved in the attempted assassination of scrap iron businessman Alexander Smolsky outbidding competitors. 

Moreover, a local resident Roman Sandalov was killed for commercial reasons. A driver of Furgal took the rap.

Furgal was arrested on July 9, 2020. According to investigators, all crimes were committed by an organized criminal group led by Furgal in Russia’s Khabarovsk and Amur Regions in 2004-2005. Earlier, four alleged members of the gang were arrested and placed in detention.

Born in the Amur Region, Furgal worked as general physician at a hospital more than 6 years before the start of his political career. After being discharged from healthcare in 1999, he went in for business, according to his biography on the Khabarovsk Krai government’s website. He was elected as the State Duma lawmaker three times.

In September 2018, he was elected as a Khabarovsk Region governor by popular vote.