An intercepted phone call has revealed that Russian forces are looking for Ukrainian ammunition so they can shoot themselves in the leg and get sent home. Video / Daily Mail
Russian state television cut President Vladimir Putin’s speech mid-sentence as he was addressing tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters at Moscow’s main football stadium as part of an anniversary of the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.
As the Russian leader was addressing crowds, state television switched to showing a pre-recorded clip of musicians playing patriotic music.
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…”.
Here’s video of Putin suddenly vanishing mid-sentence. Where is he?! pic.twitter.com/c6VqE6GG3s
— max seddon (@maxseddon) March 18, 2022
The mishap is highly unusual for the Kremlin’s well-oiled and tightly controlled propaganda machine.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, later said it was due to a “technical glitch on a server” and the full speech was eventually aired.
Russia’s TV broadcast showed rapturous crowds waving white-blue-and-red Russian flags at the packed 81,000-seat venue, while some people in the audience had Russia’s national colours painted on their cheeks.
The letter Z, which recently emerged as the symbol of the supporters of the war, was also prominently displayed at the concert: The hosts of the show wore ribbons folded in the Z-shape in their lapels, and “Z” was displayed in the banner just over Mr Putin’s head saying “For a world without Nazism”.
Putin, who still spends most of his time self-isolating for fear of Covid, has rarely been seen in public in recent months, something that has sparked speculation about his ill health.
Footage from the concert appeared to show him limping slightly as he slowly made his way off the stage at the end of his speech, with the broadcast interrupting as he was awkwardly walking down the stairs.
Reports in Russian media suggested that thousands of people had been bused in to attend the last-minute concert at the Luzhniki stadium.
State TV showed rapturous crowds chanting “Russia! Russia!” and waving Russian flags.
The event was in support of the Russian army in Ukraine and to mark the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 through a hastily held referendum.
In his speech, Putin congratulated Crimeans for choosing Russia and said the war in Ukraine was to protect Russian speakers in the country’s east, which has been mired in a Moscow-fuelled separatist insurgency for the past eight years.
“To free people from that suffering, from that genocide – that was the main reason, the main motive and goal of the military operation that we launched in the Donbass and Ukraine.”
He added: “We know what we need to do, how to do it and at what cost. And we will absolutely accomplish all of our plans.”
He said the soldiers fighting in what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine had illustrated the unity of Russia.
“Shoulder to shoulder, they help each other, support each other and when needed they shield each other from bullets with their bodies like brothers. Such unity we have not had for a long time,” he said.
The rally came as Russian troops continued to rain lethal fire on Ukrainian cities, including the capital, Kyiv, and pounded an aircraft repair installation on the outskirts of Lviv, close to the Polish border.
The show of support amid a burst of antiwar protests inside Russia led to allegations in some quarters that the rally was a manufactured display of patriotism.
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.
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 U.S.S.R.,” 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.”
Taking to the stage where a sign read “For a world without Nazism,” he railed against his foes in Ukraine as “neo-Nazis” and continued to insist his actions were necessary to prevent “genocide” —- a claim flatly denied by leaders around the globe.
Video feeds of the event cut out a times but showed a loudly cheering crowd that broke into chants of “Russia!”
Putin’s appearance marked a change from his relative isolation of recent weeks, when he has been shown meeting with world leaders and his staff either at extraordinarily long tables or via videoconference.
In the wake of the invasion, the Kremlin has clamped down harder on dissent and the flow of information, arresting thousands of antiwar protesters, banning sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and instituting tough prison sentences for what is deemed to be false reporting on the war, which Moscow refers to as a “special military operation.”
The OVD-Info rights group that monitors political arrests reported that at least seven independent journalists had been detained ahead of or while covering the anniversary events in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
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.
Putin’s quoting of the Bible and a Russian admiral of the 18th century reflected his increasing focus in recent years on history and religion as binding forces in Russia’s post-Soviet society. His branding of his enemies as Nazis evoked what many Russians consider their country’s finest hour, the defense of their homeland from Nazi Germany in World War II.
Earlier in the day, one person was reported killed in the missile attack near Lviv. Satellite photos showed the strike destroyed a repair hangar and appeared to damage two other buildings. A row of fighter jets appeared intact, but an apparent impact crater sat in front of them.
Ukraine said it had shot down two of six missiles in the volley, which came from the Black Sea.
The early morning attack was the closest strike yet to the center of Lviv, which has become a crossroads for people fleeing from other parts of Ukraine and for others entering to deliver aid or join the fight. The war has swelled the city’s population by some 200,000.
In city after city around Ukraine, hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought safety have been attacked. Rescue workers continued to search for survivors in the ruins of a theater that was being used a shelter when it was blasted by a Russian airstrike Wednesday in the besieged southern city of Mariupol.
Ludmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights commissioner, said at least 130 people had survived the theater bombing.
“But according to our data, there are still more than 1,300 people in these basements, in this bomb shelter,” Denisova told Ukrainian television. “We pray that they will all be alive, but so far there is no information about them.”
Early morning barrages also hit a residential building in the Podil neighbourhood of Kyiv, killing at least one person, according to emergency services, who said 98 people were evacuated from the building. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said 19 were wounded in the shelling.
Two others were killed when strikes hit residential and administrative buildings in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, according to the regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko.
The fighting has led nearly 3.3 million people to flee Ukraine, by the U.N.′ s estimate. The death toll remains unclear, though thousands of civilians and soldiers on both sides are believed to have been killed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s defences have proved much stronger than expected, and Russia “didn’t know what we had for defense or how we prepared to meet the blow.”
World leaders have demanded Russia be investigated for possible war crimes over its attacks on civilians. The World Health Organization said it has confirmed 43 attacks on hospitals and other health care facilities, with 12 people killed.
Both Ukraine and Russia this week reported some progress in negotiations. Earlier this week, an official in Zelenskyy’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, told The Associated Press that Ukraine was prepared to discuss a neutral status for the country in return, in part, for binding security guarantees.
Russia has demanded NATO pledge never to admit Ukraine to the alliance or station forces there. – Additional reporting, AP