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Putin Exploits Coronavirus to Justify Centralized Russian Power

MOSCOW—The coronavirus pandemic has given Russian President Vladimir Putin a fresh opportunity to drive home for worried Russians a recurring theme of his long reign: Western liberal democracies are weak, globalism is fragile and the Russian model of centralizing power in a strong leader is superior in times of crisis.

Throughout much of the pandemic, the Kremlin leader has sought to project strength and calm, assuring his people that the spread of the new coronavirus is under control in Russia, even as it has killed 14,000 and…

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