Speaking from a podium in front of a placard reading “For a Nazi-free world,” Putin said Russia would “certainly carry out all our plans” in Ukraine.
“To spare the people this suffering, from this genocide – this is the main reason, motive and purpose of the military operation that we have launched in the Donbass [an eastern Ukrainian region] and Ukraine”.
Russian state television later replayed Putin’s entire speech without problems, but the Kremlin refused to confirm or deny whether the event was live or pre-recorded.
“The best evidence is the way our boys fight in the process: shoulder to shoulder, supporting each other and, if necessary, protecting each other like brothers, protecting each other with their bodies on the battlefield. We didn’t have this unity for long.”
The authorities informed state employees to attend the celebrations. In an invitation to teachers at a Moscow state school obtained by CNN, attendees were told they would carry Russian flags and should put white “Z” signs on their clothing, a pro-war symbol seen on the country’s military vehicles in Ukraine.
But not everyone was happy to go. Ekaterina, 26, an elementary school teacher at the school, told CNN that their school administration had asked her and her classmates to attend the concert the morning before. She only asked to be known by her first name.
“I refused to go because it went against my moral principles and I told them that attending such events is not part of my work contract. However, I also have a friend from another school who refused to go and was expelled,” he told CNN.
CNN was unable to independently verify her friend’s expulsion.
The hour-and-a-half event featured live music and speeches from prominent supporters, including RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan and Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
Presenters and many of the audience wore orange and black letter Z pins on their clothes. “Well done,” the hosts said as the audience applauded, and pop stars and Russian singers including Polina Gagarina sang tunes at the event.
Lyub, believed to be Putin’s favorite Russian band, performed patriotic songs about honor, war, and sacrifice.
The speakers, who accused the West of aggression against Russia, introduced Russian Olympic athletes like Dina Averina on stage as the crowd chanted “Russia, Russia.”
The rally comes at a tense moment for Russia, as its military struggles to control major cities such as the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and Western officials put troop losses in the country in the thousands.
Senior NATO officials said on Wednesday that US and Western intelligence officials have also noted that Russia is having difficulty replacing its forces, which is greatly affecting troop morale.
But none of this pessimism appeared in Putin’s speech on Friday. “It just so happened that the beginning of the operation … coincided quite by chance with the birthday of one of our prominent military commanders [and] Holy saints, Fyodor Ushakov, who did not lose a single battle throughout his brilliant military career. ”
“He once said that these thunderstorms will go to the glory of Russia. So it was then, so it is today, and so it will always be!”
“Professional web geek. Alcohol fan. Devoted zombie trailblazer. Certified social media lover. Amateur creator. Friendly food nerd.”