Russian president Vladimir Putin justified the invasion of Ukraine before a packed football stadium on Friday but coverage of his speech on state television was unexpectedly interrupted by what the Kremlin said was a technical problem with a server.
Speaking on a stage at the centre of Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, Mr Putin promised to tens of thousands of people waving Russian flags and chanting "Russia, Russia, Russia" that all of the Kremlin's aims would be achieved.
“We know what we need to do, how to do it and at what cost. And we will absolutely accomplish all of our plans,” Mr Putin (69) told the rally from a stage decked out with slogans such as “For a world without Nazism” and “For our president”.
Many of the Russian slogans used at the rally incorporated the “Z” symbol that Russian forces have used as a motif in Ukraine. One read “Za Putina” – “for Putin”.
Dressed in a turtleneck and coat, Mr Putin said the soldiers fighting in what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine had demonstrated 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,” Mr Putin said.
As he was talking, state television briefly cut away from his speech mid-sentence and showed earlier pre-recorded footage of patriotic songs, but he later appeared back on screen.
News agency RIA cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying a technical fault on a server was the reason state television had suddenly cut away from Mr Putin.
It was not immediately clear why the server issue led to such an abrupt and unusual interruption.
Mr Putin said the invasion of Ukraine was necessary because the United States was using the country to threaten Russia, and Russia had to defend against the "genocide" of Russian-speaking people by Ukraine.
Ukraine says it is fighting for its existence and that Mr Putin’s claims of genocide are nonsense. The West says claims it wants to rip Russia apart are fiction.
Before Mr Putin spoke, Russia’s stirring national anthem, with the words “Russia is our sacred state”, boomed out across the stands of the stadium. which was the venue for the men’s 2018 World Cup final, along with more modern pop hits such as the jingoistic Made in the USSR.
The event officially marked the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea, but many of the speeches were intended to rally the country behind the invasion of Ukraine. Moscow police said more than 200,000 people were in and around the stadium, which is Russia's national venue and also hosted the 1980 Olympics and Manchester United's defeat of Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final.
Mr Putin’s favourite Russian band, Lyube, sang songs about war, sacrifice and the honour of those fighting for Russia.
Pan-Slavist poetry by Fyodor Tyutchev, whose verses warned Russians that they would always be considered slaves of the Enlightenment by Europeans, was read out.
Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had lost any illusions about ever relying on the West, and Moscow would never accept a world order dominated by the United States, which is acting like a sheriff seeking to call all the shots in a saloon bar.
Mr Putin, speaking as US president Joe Biden talked to Chinese president Xi Jinping by telephone about the Ukraine crisis, quoted Russia's 18th-century naval commander Fyodor Ushakov. "He once said that these thunderstorms will bring Russia glory," Mr Putin said. "That is the way it was then, that is the way it is now and it will always be that way." – Reuters/Guardian