Putin celebrates anniversary of Crimea annexation at stadium rally amid Russia's onslaught of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on March 18, 2022.

(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin justified the invasion of Ukraine at a rally in Moscow on Friday, where his speech was abruptly cut off on the state TV broadcast in what the Kremlin described as a technical error.

Tens of thousands of people waved the Russian flag at the national stadium as they took part in celebrations commemorating the eighth year of Russia's annexation of Crimea -- which is deemed illegal by the Ukrainian government and not recognized in the West.
Speaking from a stage in front of a banner that read, "For a world without Nazism," Putin said Russia "will definitely implement all our plans" in Ukraine.
    "To spare people from this suffering, from this genocide -- this is the main reason, motive and purpose of the military operation that we launched in the Donbas [an eastern Ukrainian region] and Ukraine," he said.
      Russian state TV later replayed Putin's full speech without problems, but the Kremlin refused to confirm or deny if the event was live or pre-recorded.
      Russians hold flags and cheer during the concert that featured live music and speeches from high-profile Putin supporters.
      Putin gave an upbeat assessment of the invasion during his speech at the concert.
      Putin insisted that national unity was the strongest in a long time, even as many people flee Russia or protest against war in the streets, and as the country is increasingly isolated on the global stage.
      "The best proof is the way our boys are fighting in this operation: shoulder to shoulder, supporting each other, and if need be, protecting each other like brothers, shielding one another with their bodies on the battlefield. We haven't had this unity for a long time," Putin told the crowd.
        State workers were told by authorities to attend the celebrations. In an invitation given out to teachers in one of Moscow's state schools and obtained by CNN, attendees were told they would have Russian flags and should put white "Z" marks on their clothing, a pro-war symbol seen daubed on the country's military vehicles in Ukraine.
        But not everyone was happy to go. Ekaterina, 26, an elementary school teacher at the school, told CNN that she and her colleagues were asked by their school administration to attend the concert the morning before. She asked only to be identified by her first name.