Russians have revealed they were forced to squeeze into a crowded Moscow stadium for a pro-war rally on Friday to listen to President Vladimir Putin insisting the Kremlin will be victorious in Ukraine.
Stunning scenes saw tens of thousands of people cheering and waving Russian flags at Luzhniki Stadium as Putin took the stage in a rare public appearance amid war.
But some of those at the stadium, including many public sector workers, spoke up BBC News that they were pressured to do so by their employers.
“I’ll be here for a while and then I’ll go… I think most people here don’t support the war. I don’t,” said a man who worked for the Moscow metro system.
A group of teachers admitted they were forced to attend, while students said they would have been given a day off from the lectures if they agreed to attend a “concert”.
Some of the students told the outlet that before attending the rally, they did not know it was meant to show their support for Russian troops in Ukraine.
Many Russians approached for an interview did not want to speak or show themselves – and some appeared “embarrassed” to be there, the outlet reported.
However, footage from inside the stadium broadcast worldwide showed a different story.
Russians, including many with the letter “Z” on their clothing, could be seen waving war flags as they broke into “Russia!” chants.
The stage was decorated with slogans like “For a world without Nazism” and “For our President”.
The rally also included patriotic songs, including a performance of “Made in the USSR” with the opening lines “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, it’s all my country.”
Addressing the crowd, Putin justified himself the invasion of Ukraine and promised that all goals of the Kremlin would be achieved.
“We know what to do, how to do it and at what cost. And we will absolutely implement all our plans,” Putin told the rally.
“Shoulder to shoulder, they help each other, support each other and protect each other with their bodies when needed like brothers from bullets. We haven’t had such a unit for a long time,” he said of the Russian troops stationed in Ukraine.
Moscow police claimed more than 200,000 people were in and around the football stadium during the rally, officially marking the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
In the course of the invasion, the Kremlin has cracked down on dissenting opinions and the flow of information.
The government has arrested Thousands of anti-war protestersbanned Facebook and Twitter and imposed harsh jail terms for allegedly false reporting on what Moscow only describes as a “military special operation.”
With mail wires
https://nypost.com/2022/03/18/russians-forced-to-attend-putins-packed-pro-war-rally/ Russians ‘forced’ to attend Putin’s packed pro-war rally