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The Russian leader hates to deliver bad news and wants to distinguish his rule from the turbulent presidency of Boris N. Yeltsin. So he is leaving it to his minions to announce harsh measures.

Mr. Putin, always wary of associating himself with bad news, last week delivered a surprise television address to the nation, warning that Russia “cannot isolate itself from the threat,” but then announced a weeklong paid vacation for the whole country.

This left the streets of Moscow and other cities filled with people enjoying their time off. The Kremlin later had to clarify that the country was not being given a bonus vacation but was simply being asked to stay at home.

Tatiana Stanovaya, a nonresident scholar at Carnegie Moscow Center, said that Mr. Putin’s public detachment from the health crisis fit into what, since he annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, has been his view that the presidency is not so much a job as a sacred mission.

“This is all connected to his sense of having a personal mission,” she said. “Why should he spend his sacred political capital on a virus?”

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