A glitch in the system. The rise and fall of Sardana Avksenteiva, once the most popular mayor in Russia

Sardana Avksentieva is stepping down after almost two and a half years as the mayor of Yakutsk, a port city in eastern Siberia. Until January 11, she was (and technically still is) the only sitting head of a Russian regional capital who won office by defeating a candidate from United Russia, the country’s ruling political party. Sometimes called the “people’s mayor,” Avksentieva was popular beyond her hometown. As soon as she took office, she sold off the city government’s expensive SUVs, then lowered public transportation fares, and last year she announced plans to transfer city employees to open offices on the outskirts of town. She also voted against constitutional amendments that could extend Putin’s presidency and voiced support for the self-proclaimed shaman Alexander Gabyshev, who’s repeatedly attempted treks to Moscow, where he plans to “exorcize” Vladimir Putin. The “people’s mayor,” however, has now named Yevgeny Grigoryev, a member of United Russia and the winner of the Kremlin’s “Leaders of Russia’’ contest, as her successor. Sources told Meduza that the Kremlin spent years engineering Avksentieva’s resignation.