Putin appears at huge rally at Moscow stadium, praises troops' actions in Ukraine - GulfToday

Putin appears at huge rally at Moscow stadium, praises troops' actions in Ukraine


Vladimir Putin attends a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Friday. Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared at a huge flag-waving rally at a Moscow stadium and praised his country's troops in biblical terms on Friday as they pressed their lethal attacks on Ukrainian cities with shelling and missiles.

"Shoulder to shoulder, they help and support each other,” Putin said of Moscow's forces in a rare public appearance since the invasion three weeks ago that made Russia an outcast among nations and triggered antiwar protests at home. "We have not had unity like this for a long time,” he added to cheers from the crowd.

Russian TV cuts Putin mid-speech

As the Russian leader was addressing crowds, state television switched to showing a clip of patriotic music from earlier in the event. Putin was cut mid-sentence as he was saying: "It so happened that the beginning of the operation coincided by chance with the birthday of one of our outstanding military..."

Russian state television is tightly controlled and such interruptions are highly unusual.

Putin-waves Vladimir Putin waves during a concert at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Reuters

The Kremlin later said that the broadcast was "interrupted due to technical problems on the server." Around 10 minutes later, state television replayed Putin's speech from the start to finish before he walked off stage. Putin was speaking at an event in support of the Russian army in Ukraine and to mark the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

Moscow police said more than 200,000 people were in and around the Luzhniki stadium for the celebration marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula, seized from Ukraine.

The event included patriotic songs, including a performance of "Made in the USSR,” with the opening lines "Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, it’s all my country.”

Seeking to portray the war as just, Putin paraphrased the Bible to say of Russia's troops: "There is no greater love than giving up one’s soul for one’s friends.” And he continued to insist his actions were necessary to prevent "genocide,” a claim flatly denied by leaders around the globe.

Standing on stage in a white turtleneck and a blue down jacket, Putin spoke for about five minutes. Some people, including presenters at the event, wore T-shirts or jackets with a "Z” — a symbol seen on Russian tanks and other military vehicles in Ukraine and embraced by supporters of the war.

Several Telegram channels critical of the Kremlin reported that students and employees of state institutions in a number of regions were ordered by their superiors to attend rallies and concerts marking the Crimea anniversary. Those reports could not be independently verified.


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