Even by Russian standards, the Smolensk Oblast gubernatorial may have marked a new low. Just two days before the region’s voters went to the polls, gunmen opened fire on a car belonging to its vice governor, Anatoly Makarenko, killing his driver and seriously wounding his bodyguard, who had shielded Makarenko’s five-year-old daughter. Makarenko immediately charged that the attack had been masterminded by Viktor Maslov, head of the oblast’s branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the main challenger to Makarenko’s boss, incumbent Smolensk Governor Aleksandr Prokhorov.
While Maslov dismissed the allegations, calling Makarenko was a “semi-criminal businessman” with plenty of enemies (Makarenko had indeed been the target of three separate criminal probes), that there were other attacks on Prokhorov’s campaign staff and headquarters–a couple of fires and a small explosion–lent the charges a certain plausibility. Meanwhile, several criminal investigations were launched against the administration of the incumbent, one of them involving allegations that 100,000 rubles (a bit more than $3,000) from the oblast budget was used to finance a trip to the resort town of Sochi by a soccer team made up of Smolensk administration officials, including nine of Prokhorov’s close friends. In Russia, of course, such uses for public monies could hardly be considered a serious deviation from the norm.
In any case, Maslov, who was backed by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, defeated Prokhorov, who was backed by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), 40.65 percent to 34.54 percent. Makarenko, meanwhile, he feared persecution or even physical “liquidation” at the hands of the victorious Chekist.