Putin appears at huge pro-war rally as Russian troops continue attack on Ukraine

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Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared at a massive rally in Moscow Friday, applauding his troops as they continued pounding Ukrainian cities with shelling and missiles.

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“We know what we need to do, how to do it and at what cost. And we will absolutely accomplish all of our plans,” Putin told the crowd gathered in and around Luzhniki Stadium. Approximately 200,000 people were in attendance, many waiving Russian flags, according to Russian police and state-run media.

Russian President Vladimir Putin waves during a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia March 18, 2022. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin waves during a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia March 18, 2022. 
(RIA Novosti Host Photo Agency/Ramil Sitdikov via REUTERS)

Putin praised his soldiers at the celebration to mark the eighth anniversary of Russia’s seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. “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. 

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He called the Feb. 24 invasion necessary to defend against the “genocide” of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine – a claim flatly rejected by the West. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia March 18, 2022. The banner reads: "For Russia". 

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia March 18, 2022. The banner reads: “For Russia”. 
(Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Kremlin via Reuters)

State television, which featured his speech, briefly cut out due to a technical glitch, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The event was held inside a soccer stadium that was used in the 2018 Soccer World Cup. The slogan “For a world without Nazism” appeared on the stage where Putin spoke.  

Ukranian servicemen stand beside a damaged building at a residential area after shelling in Kyiv on March 18, 2022, as Russian troops try to encircle the Ukrainian capital as part of their slow-moving offensive.

Ukranian servicemen stand beside a damaged building at a residential area after shelling in Kyiv on March 18, 2022, as Russian troops try to encircle the Ukrainian capital as part of their slow-moving offensive.
(Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Before the autocratic leader addressed the crowd, speakers praised him for fighting “Nazism” in Ukraine – an assertion rejected as false by many world leaders. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish. Zelensky has noted previously that members of his family were killed in the Holocaust. 

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Russian singer Oleg Gazmanov stirred up the audience with a rendition of “Made in the U.S.S.R.” with the opening line “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, It’s all my country.”

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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