Tens of thousands of people rushed towards Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium hours before Vladimir Putin was ever scheduled to show up.
Two long rows of buses were parked along the roadside for as far as one’s eye could see.
It’s a standard procedure, and it has been since Soviet times. Employees of state-owned companies are bussed to events like these. Today was no exception.
Liuba, 23, said that she had come from university and was told to arrive. “They said there would be a concert.”
She was unsure if the Russian president would show up and didn’t care too much.
I asked her if she would mind being told to attend an event that would be used for a patriotic moment on state television.
She replied, “It’s politics. We live in this type of country.” They say one thing, but the truth is quite different. They leave for another country if they aren’t satisfied with their current situation.
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It was freezing cold outside, making it difficult to attract people. Although hundreds had already flocked to the White House before the president arrived, the mood was patriotic.
Dinara Yakusheva, an ex-medical student who proudly wore a number of military medals on her chest, said that she had been through a few wars.
“Everyone should honor this holiday. They are so heroic! Let’s live together in peace around the globe.
Alexander Zaldastanov (or “Surgeon”), the head of Night Wolves biker club was our guest. He is known for riding with Putin.
He yelled at us, “I wish that you would get rid of the American choke,” after we said we were from Sky News.
As always, Vladimir Putin came in to thunderous applause. This is the type of event Putin loves. He loves the image of a stadium full of the Russian tricolour flag and music.
It looks great on state television, and it’s even better for the millions of people who don’t have access to it.
The president stated, “Right now, there is a fight on our historical frontiers to our people.”
We are proud of them and have honoured them three times. The cheers of the crowd were enthusiastic.
It was also an extraordinary moment on the stage.
One group of children, which the West would claim was abducted by Russia from the streets in bombed-out Mariupol is here called liberated.
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They honored the 367 soldiers who had helped them. The touching scene saw children of all ages hugging him on stage.
This speaks to how both sides view this horrible conflict through a darkened lens. There is little chance that these sentiments will change.