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Putin Tells Mass Rally That Russia Will Prevail in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a rally at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, March 18, 2022. The banner reads: "For Russia," using the untraditional "Z" representative of Russia's campaign in Ukraine. (Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin used a rally before a packed soccer stadium on Friday to justify the invasion of Ukraine, promising tens of thousands of people waving Russian flags that all 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," Putin told a rally at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.

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.

As Putin was talking, state television briefly cut away from his speech and showed earlier pre-recorded footage of patriotic songs, but the Kremlin chief later appeared back on state television.

RIA news agency cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying a technical fault on a server was the reason state television had suddenly cut away from Putin.

Putin says the operation in 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 Putin's claims of genocide are nonsense. The West says claims it wants to rip Russia apart are fiction.

The stage where Putin spoke was decked out with slogans "For a world without Nazism" and "For our president," using the "Z" - markings used in the military operation in Ukraine.

Before Putin spoke, 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 Soccer World Cup along with more modern pop hits such as "Made in the U.S.S.R.."

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.