The "Letter from Moscow: Kremlin, Inc." by Michael Specter uses as its hook the life and murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Park Burroughs also links to the article at Grumpy Old Editor and gives some of his thoughts from working with journalists in the Kemerova region of Siberia.
Vladimir Putin’s relationship with democracy is not ambiguous: in December of 2004, he signed a bill that effectively eliminated the election by popular vote of Russia’s eighty-nine governors. The President now nominates them himself—and then waits for regional legislatures to confirm his choices (as they always do). In another change that nobody protested and few people noticed, Putin also assumed the power to appoint the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Last November, again at the President’s behest, the Duma abolished any requirement that a minimum number of voters must participate in order for an election to be valid.