An activist carries bags of food and essentials in Moscow as part of a drive to support homeless people during the Covid-19 pandemic. | Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

If many people get infected in Moscow, Russia’s showpiece capital, it could ruin the myth of Putin as the country’s protector.

The coronavirus has yet to hit Russia hard. But when it does, as many experts soon expect, it could prove a huge challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a fragile time for his rule.

Putin markets himself as Russia’s hero, the only man who can restore the former Soviet Union’s greatness and bring stability to his country. Anything that messes with that image, whether it’s large-scale protests, a prominent opposition leader, or questions about his leadership, ruins the myth he and his allies have cultivated for decades.

A significant Covid-19 outbreak in Russia, and particularly in the densely populated capital…

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