Russian President Vladimir Putin stimulated the nationalist fervor of tens of thousands of Russians as he appeared in a Moscow rally on Friday hailing the “special operation” in Ukraine.
Speaking in a rare public appearance at the Luzhniki stadium he told the thousands of flag-waving Russians, many displaying banners with the letter “Z”, which has come to symbolize the invasion, that the “special operation” was aimed at ending “genocide” in the region.
“We know what we should do now and how we should do it and we will implement all our plans,” he told the crowd from a large stage in front of signs that read “For a world without Nazism / For Russia”.
Ukraine committing genocide in Donbas, Putin says at rally
During his speech, Putin sought to justify his country’s actions by repeating his claims that Ukraine was committing “genocide” in the Donbas region.
“This really was genocide. Stopping that was the goal of the special operation,” Putin said, adding that Ukranian civilians have welcomed Moscow’s invading troops.
He claimed the people of Donbas did not agree with the 2014 “coup” in Kyiv and were “immediately hit with punitive military operations”.
“A blockade was immediately put in place against these people. They were subjected to systematic shelling, air strikes. This is what is called genocide,” he was quoted as saying by state-owned news agency Sputnik.
A broadcast of Putin’s speech on Russian state television then suddenly cut off without showing how he concluded his speech or left the stage. The Kremlin blamed the interruption on a technical glitch.
Russian state television later aired the full speech, which ended a few seconds after the cutaway with Putin leaving the stage as thousands of spectators waved Russian flags.
The rally marked the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.