President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday Russia was fighting for its "historical" lands in Ukraine, at a state-organized patriotic rally in Moscow in support of the Ukraine offensive.
"I just heard from the top military leadership of the country that a battle is ongoing right now, for our historical lands, for our people," Putin said.
In a short address to the tens of thousands gathered at Moscow's main Luzhniki stadium, Putin also praised Russian servicemen in Ukraine who are "fighting heroically, courageously, bravely: we are proud of them".
All those who supported the Russian army were "to a certain extent also a defender of the fatherland", he added.
"This includes healthcare workers, employees of the defense and transport sectors... and you all, who came today to support our fighters."
The audience, waving Russian flags, braved cold winter temperatures of -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit), to come watch patriotic performances and speeches.
Among them was Ulyana, a 47-year-old lawyer, who told AFP she came for "our president, our men who are defending our country.
"What is happening right now, the consolidation of national unity, reminds us of the Great Patriotic War," she said, using the Russian term for World War II.
- 'Great Patriotic War' -
The concert, dubbed "Glory to the Defenders of the Fatherland", was held on the eve of the eponymous Russian public holiday, and two days before the anniversary of the Ukraine offensive on February 24.
Rock star Grigory Leps opened the show with a song in honour of Russia. Displayed on screens around the stadium, were images of "The Motherland Calls" statue in the city of Volgograd, scene of the World War II battle for Stalingrad, as it was then called.
Putin, when he launched what he described as the special military operation in Ukraine, argued that the treatment of Russian speakers there was comparable with the actions of Nazi Germany.
As the offensive dragged on, the Kremlin whipped up support by characterizing its campaign as a wider conflict against the West, the equivalent of the "Great Patriotic War" against Nazi Germany.
Also present in the crowd was the Kremlin-appointed leader of the Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin, who repeated Moscow's claims of "Nazi ideology" in the Ukrainian government.
"The West is an accomplice to (Ukrainian) war crimes" Pushilin said.
Organizers brought on stage children from the Ukrainian Donbas, including from the port city of Mariupol in Donetsk, which was devastated by a long siege before Russia captured it.
Ukraine has accused Russia of kidnapping thousands of Ukrainian children from the territories it controls, something Moscow has denied, insisting it organized legal adoptions.
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Comments ( 1)
At some point there must be a statistical probability that Putler could actually utter something that is true, as opposed to his constant litany of bald faced lies that we hear each time he goes public.
There was no Russia at the time that the precursor state to today's Ukraine came into being, and even in consideration of all historic events following that time, Russia holds no historic claim to any part of Ukraine. Ukrainians want nothing to do with Putin's criminal regime, and as evidenced by elite Russians who prefer to reside in the west as opposed to sh*thole RuSSia, even many Russians don't want anything to do the midget killer.
It is time for more definitive action to end the madman's genocidal war against an innocent Ukraine. Deport all Russian citizens who reside outside of Russia, and in particular target the families of oligarchs, politicians, and Nazi Russian government functionaries who leech off the satanic west while they moan about how evil we are. Close their embassies, send their diplomats home, and commence to give Putler the sh*t-kicking of his lifetime. He's a loser, too stupid to quit while he's behind. He belongs before The Hague as the modern version of his idol, Adolph Hitler.