RUSSIA: Vladimir Putin appeared at a huge flag-waving rally at a Moscow stadium on Friday and lavished praise on his troops fighting in Ukraine, three weeks into the invasion that has led to heavier-than-expected Russian losses on the battlefield and increasingly authoritarian rule at home.
Meanwhile, the leader of Russia’s delegation in diplomatic talks with Ukraine said the sides have narrowed their differences. The Ukrainian side gave no immediate account of the talks. The Moscow rally came as Russian troops continued to rain lethal fire on Ukrainian cities, including the capital, Kyiv, and pounded an aircraft repair installation on the outskirts of Lviv, close to the Polish border.
“Shoulder to shoulder, they help and support each other,” the Russian President said of the Kremlin’s forces in a rare public appearance since the start of the war.
“We have not had unity like this for a long time,” he added to cheers from the crowd. Some people, including presenters at the event, wore T-shirts or jackets with a “Z” — a symbol seen on Russian tanks and other military vehicles in Ukraine and embraced by supporters of the war.
President Putin’s quoting of the Bible and a Russian admiral of the 18th century reflected his increasing focus in recent years on history and religion as binding forces in Russia’s post-Soviet society.
His branding of his enemies as Nazis evoked what many Russians consider their country’s finest hour, the defense of their homeland from Nazi Germany in World War II.
The rally came as Vladimir Medinsky, who led Russian negotiators in several rounds of talks with Ukraine, said that the sides have moved closer to agreement on the issue of Ukraine dropping its bid to join NATO and adopting a neutral status. – THE HINDU