Russian TV cuts off Vladimir Putin mid-speech during major Moscow rally

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Russian President Vladimir Putin greets people after his speech in Moscow - Ramil Sitdikov /Pool Sputnik
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets people after his speech in Moscow - Ramil Sitdikov /Pool Sputnik

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 on Friday 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...".

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.

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.

The rally was to celebrate the annexation of Crimea - Vladimir Astapkovich
The rally was to celebrate the annexation of Crimea - Vladimir Astapkovich

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.

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