'It's Like Billy Graham Meets North Korea': Pundits React to Putin Speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin held a rally on Friday in Moscow to support his position regarding the Ukrainian invasion, and pundits have drawn comparisons between the current situation and Nazi Germany.

As Russia's war with Ukraine continues into its 23rd day, Putin spoke to a packed Luzhniki Stadium in the capital, attempting to rally Russia's citizens and defending the reasons behind the war.

"We know what we need to do, how to do it and at what cost. And we will absolutely accomplish all of our plans," Putin said, insisting that the conflict was a necessary feat to prevent the "genocide" of Russian people. "To liberate people from this suffering, from the genocide, is the main inspiring motive of the military operation we started in Donbas and in Ukraine," Putin said.

The speech did not enhance Putin's standing with Western commentators.

Linas Linkevicius, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, compared Putin to Adolf Hitler, showing pictures of the Nazi leader when he held rallies in Germany during World War II.

Linkevicius posted two photos side by side in a tweet on Friday, writing, "Almost 90 years ago was no internet, live stream news, was easier to fool around. Mass rally today in Moscow welcomed war criminal #Putin. Crowds are convinced they are on the right side. Lamentable."

During the rally, Putin praised the unity of the Russian military forces, saying, "Shoulder to shoulder, they help and support each other and when needed they shield each other from bullets with their bodies like brothers. Such unity we have not had for a long time."

Putin even paraphrased the Bible in his praise of Russian soldiers: "There is no greater love than giving up one's soul for one's friends," he said.

Journalist Alec Luhn commented on what he saw as the absurdity of Putin quoting the Bible, writing, "It's like Billy Graham meets North Korea."

Broadcaster and TV personality Piers Morgan tweeted, "Putin holding a mass rally to preach about the urgent need to eradicate Nazism would be funny if it wasn't so deadly serious. HE is the Nazi, waging illegal genocidal war against a sovereign democratic nation with a Jewish president."

Former NBCUniversal executive Mike Sington tweeted he thought Putin's rally looked like one of former President Donald Trump's rallies, saying, "Instead of QAnon flags, crowd waves 'Z' flags."

The rally in Moscow drew an audience of nearly 200,000, Moscow police told the Associated Press. The massive crowd waved Russian and 'Z' flags, a widely-debated symbol that was first seen painted on Russian tanks in the Syrian civil war several years ago, according to The Evening Standard.

During the rally in Moscow, Russian troops moved further on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, and the Associated Press reported that an airstrike hit an airport outside of Lviv, where one person was reported injured.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Foreign Ministry for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

President Putin Addresses Supporters On Anniversary Of
Western commentators drew comparisons to Vladimir Putin's rally in Moscow on Friday to Nazi rallies. In this photo, Putin speaks during a concert marking the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea, on March 18, 2022 in Moscow. Getty Images