Russian State TV Cuts Putin's Speech Mid-Sentence, Kremlin Blames Technical Issue

Russian state television channel Rossia-24 cut away from President Vladimir Putin in mid-sentence as he was delivering a speech to a huge crowd of Muscovites at the Luzhniki sports stadium in the Russian capital.

Putin was addressing the crowd, many of whom were holding Russian national flags and patriotic posters, on March 18 to mark the eighth anniversary of the 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea. Some media reports said the stadium was filled with public employees.

Just before being cut off during what was reportedly a live broadcast of the event, Putin said, "It so happened that the beginning of the operation coincided, completely accidentally coincided with the birthday of one of our outstanding military...."

The picture on state television then suddenly jumped to the stage where Putin was allegedly speaking, but now it was filled with a choir and singer Oleg Gazmanov.

Circumstances around the interruption, which are extremely rare as state television programs involving the president are tightly controlled, were unclear.

About 20 minutes after the glitch, blamed on a "technical problem on a server" by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, state TV began showing the speech again from the beginning, which Putin finished.

Among other songs during the event, Gazmanov performed his song "Made in the U.S.S.R.," with the opening lines "Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, it's all my country."

The SOTA group said on Telegram that many people who came to the event started leaving the stadium long before it ended. Many who came to the event refused to talk to SOTA, with some saying that they were forced into buses that brought them to the event.

Putin used the occasion to justify Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Despite being outmanned, Ukraine has put up staunch resistance to Russian troops since Putin gave the order for the invasion on February 24.

Russian troops have yet to to take Kyiv, a major objective in their hopes of forcing a settlement or dictating Ukraine's future political alignments.

Still, through a steady and heavy bombardment of many regions of the country, Russia has devastated large swathes of Ukraine and forced more than 3 million people to flee.

It is unclear how many people have died in the fighting, though Ukraine has said thousands of civilians and several thousand Russian soldiers have died.

The UN human rights office said on March 18 that it has recorded a total of 816 civilians killed and 1,333 injured since the fighting began. However, it only reports figures that it can verify and admits the numbers understate the actual casualty toll.