The Russian Billionaire Selling Putin’s War to the Public

One of the most influential voices bolstering Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine belongs to a 71-year-old billionaire who argued that a war could prove Russia’s strength.

Yuri Kovalchuk, for decades a close friend of the Russian leader, shares Mr. Putin’s vision of Russia as a powerful military and cultural counterpoint to the U.S., people who know him say. The billionaire and Mr. Putin have met frequently since the start of the war in February, and also talk by phone or video, according to a friend of the Kovalchuk family as well as to a former Russian intelligence official.

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