Staunton, January 11 – Sardana Avksentyeva, who defeated a United Russia candidate to become mayor of Yakutsk in 2018 and gained widespread recognition for her efforts to root out waste and take care of the city’s residents, has resigned citing ill health. But almost all who have commented think she was pushed out by United Russia in advance of the 2021 Duma election.
Although she was careful not to oppose Vladimir Putin, she never fit his model of what an official should be. She spoke out frequently, supporting the shaman who declared he was marching on Moscow to exorcise the Kremlin leader, opposing the constitutional amendments, and genuinely fighting corruption.
United Russia officials in Sakha were unhappy with all that and even more unhappy with the fact that as a result of her policies and skillful use of social media, she was vastly more popular than any of them. That made her a threat, and now she is out, replaced by a gray United Russia official.
Because of that, almost everyone who has commented on her departure insists that while she may indeed be ill – like many popular politicians, Avksentyeva overworked – she almost certainly was “encouraged” to leave office by the powers that be (snob.ru/news/mer-yakutska-sardana-avksenteva-ushla-v-otstavku-pochemu-eto-vazhno/, sibreal.org/a/31041472.html and dailystorm.ru/vlast/stavlennik-avksentevoy-ustroil-edinuyu-rossiyu-i-elity-yakutii).
Over the last several years, United Russia has pushed numerous officials who did not fit the party’s model of what a leader should be. Some of those like Dmitry Furgal in Khabarovsk were members of opposing parties; but even those who joined United Russia, as Avksentyeva did after her election, have been forced out for not keeping quiet and fitting in.
Even though Avksentyeva’s exit resembles that of Furgal, it is unlikely that it will spark the kind of continuing demonstrations that have gone on in Khabarovsk the last six months. But one of the now former Yakutsk mayor’s aides says that her boss doesn’t plan to exit politics altogether, thus setting the stage for possible new conflicts in the future.