Putin holds pep rally as Russian forces continue invasion of Ukraine

As his military forces continued their invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a pep rally Thursday in a purported show of national unity.

During the rally, which was meant to mark the eighth anniversary of Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, Putin used the Bible to justify Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“It is to get people out of their misery, out of this genocide, that is the main reason, the motive and purpose of the military operation that we began in Donbas and Ukraine,” The Russian leader said, according to The Washington Post.

Referencing John 15:13, Putin added, “And this is where the words from the Scriptures come to my mind: ‘There is no greater love than if someone gives his soul for his friends.'”

“We haven’t had such unity for a long time,” he said, claiming that Russian soldiers were upholding so-called Christian values as they fought “shoulder to shoulder.”

Putin’s speech didn’t quite go off without a hitch.

“Putin, standing on a stage with no one else near him, was about to wrap his speech when the TV feed jumped to a dolly shot swinging out over the crowd,” Deadline reported. “Audio from Putin’s speech was suddenly replaced by music and cheering.”

According to CNN, the Kremlin would not say if the rally was live or pre-recorded.

The Post reported on aspects of the event that seemed aimed at rallying Russians in support of the invasion of Ukraine, which has sparked Europe’s largest humanitarian crisis in years.

“The stadium appeared to be packed with tens of thousands waving Russian flags and flags with the letter Z, which has been pushed by Russian propagandists as a symbol of support for what Russia calls it ‘special military operation,’ in Ukraine,” according to The Post.

“The crowd listened to nationalist singer Oleg Gazmanov performing a nostalgic song, ‘Made in the U.S.S.R.,’ extolling the Soviet Union’s reach to include countries like the Baltic states, Moldova and Kazakhstan.”

But not all was as it seemed, with multiple attendees saying they were given little choice in attending the rally.

“I’ll be here for a while and then I’ll leave … I think most people here don’t support the war. I don’t,” one rally attendee, a Moscow metro employee, told the BBC.

According to the outlet: “Many told the BBC they worked in the public sector, and that they had been pressured into attending by their employers.”