Putin attends a virtual meeting about COVID-19 in Moscow, Russia, May 2020 
Sputnik Photo Agency / Reuters

In Russia, the pandemic has wrong-footed both the opposition and the authorities. The opposition, used to comparing President Vladimir Putin’s regime unfavorably with largely more effective democracies, must contend with the failures of Western countries such as the United States, which now leads the world in infections, deaths, and as Putin has pointed out, ineptitude. But Putin’s supporters can hardly claim that Russia furnishes an example of the benefits of the authoritarian model in a crisis. Rather, Russia briefly rose to number two in the world in cases (it ceded this place to Brazil just a few days

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