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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin gave a rallying speech at a Moscow football stadium on Friday which was cut short on state-run television.
The Kremlin later said a technical glitch was to blame.
Russian authorities claimed that 200,000 people gathered in and around the Luzhniki stadium in Russia’s capital to commemorate the eighth anniversary since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.
In a rare public speech since the invasion in late February, Putin praised his armed forces as Ukrainian cities continue to sustain heavy shelling.
“Shoulder to shoulder, they help and support each other“, said Putin. “We have not had unity like this for a long time,” he added to cheers from the crowd.
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.”
He continued to insist his actions were necessary to prevent “genocide,” a claim flatly rejected by leaders around the globe.
But during his address, the broadcast was interrupted and cut to the Russian singer Oleg Gazmanov, chanting „Forward, Russia!“, in what the Kremlin said was due to a technical error with the server.
There were multiple reports, including from BBC reporters in Moscow, that students and employees of state institutions were forced to attend the rally marking the anniversary.