The alcohol department of a supermarket in Moscow, Saturday, April 11, 2020. (Sergey Ponomarev/The New York Times)

MOSCOW — Nearly as big as California but served by only a handful of mostly decrepit Soviet-era hospitals, the remote northern Russian region of Komi is a coronavirus petri dish for the horrors lying in wait for the world’s largest country.

Amid growing evidence that the pathogen had already breached Komi’s feeble defenses, local authorities moved vigorously last week to contain the crisis: Police summoned critics of the regional government to ask how they knew about an outbreak in a hospital at a time when officials in Komi were insisting nobody had been infected.

Among those called in for questioning was Pavel Andreev, director of 7×7 Komi, an independent online journal

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