Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday made his first public appearance since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a rally in Moscow.
Moscow Police say there were 200,000 people in and around the stadium Putin spoke at as the crowd cheered for their president, The New York Times reported.
Spectators were waving Russian flags as Putin claimed the country was more united now than ever as they celebrated the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea.
One person at the rally had a poster that said “For a world without Nazism” as the Russian government continues to falsely tell the people the invasion of Ukraine was to stop Nazism.
During a speech, Putin told the crowd that his nation had “not had unity like this for a long time.” He claimed that the “main reason” for the military operation in Ukraine is to “end the suffering and genocide of people” in the Donbass region.
Earlier this month, Putin signed a law that effectively criminalizes any public opposition to or independent news reporting about the war.
Despite the law, protests against the war have continued in Russia. More than 14,900 people have been detained at antiwar rallies since Feb. 24, according to OVD Info, a rights group that tracks arrests at demonstrations in Russia. Activists have had their homes searched and had criminal cases opened against them.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: NBC NEWS