The Kremlin has blamed a technical glitch for the interrupted transmission of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech to a packed Moscow stadium to mark the eighth anniversary of Crimea’s annexation.
During Friday’s speech, Russian state television suddenly cut away from Putin hailing what Russia calls its special operation in Ukraine and the bravery of its soldiers, to show patriotic songs being played at the event instead.
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It 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 at the 80,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium.
Moscow police said more than 200,000 people were in and around the stadium for the rally, some of whom chanted “Russia, Russia, Russia” at times.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, cited by RIA news agency, said a server glitch caused the interruption.
Putin told the tens of thousands of people that Russians “have not had unity like this for a long time”.
“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, 69, told the rally.
It was a rare public appearance by Putin who addressed the crowd from a stage, wearing a white turtleneck and blue down jacket.
“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,” Putin said, referring to Russian soldiers.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 in an effort to degrade its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.
Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces.
Prior to the speech, Russia’s stirring national anthem, with the words “Russia is our sacred state”, boomed out across the stands of the stadium used in the 2018 World Cup along with more modern pop hits such as “Made in the USSR”.