from the oblast’s gubernatorial race. Meaning that while Rutskoi was no more an exemplar of good government than Berezovsky was of a responsible and independent press, the way in which the incumbent governor was eliminated from the Kursk race seemed less about promoting rule of law than about Kremlin muscle flexing.

Indeed, while Putin adamantly denied having anything to do with Rutskoi’s troubles, few independent observers believed him, and his claim was made even less credible with the leak of a confidential Kremlin administration document. It listed those incumbents to be eliminated from upcoming gubernatorial races, and the “legal” grounds for doings so.