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‘For Putin!’ – Thousands Cram Into World Cup Final Stadium to Cheer on Russian Leader at Rally




Russian President Vladimir Putin has hailed the country’s “special operation” in Ukraine at a rally marking the anniversary of the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium, which hosted the World Cup final in 2018, was packed for the rally, with patriot songs, and crowds waving Russian flags and shouting: “Russia! Russia! Russia!”

Images and video from the stadium showed a sea of red, blue and white flags and banners, with one reading: “For Putin!”

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People wave flags during President Putin’s speech. Pic: AP

Thousands at rally cheer on president

Mr Putin gave a speech from a stage at the venue – after discussing Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine with his security council on Friday, RIA news agency cited the Kremlin as saying.

He told the cheering thousands “we will implement all our plans”, insisting that the “main purpose” of the invasion of Ukraine is to “save people from suffering and genocide”.

Russian military cadets and officers were among the crowds. Pic: AP

He told supporters that Russian soldiers are fighting “shoulder to shoulder” in Ukraine, adding: “We haven’t had such unity in such a long time.”

Russian TV suddenly cut away from the Russian leader and showed patriotic songs being played at the event.

In other developments:

o Russia says it’s ‘tightening the noose’ on the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol
o Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko warns of a ‘war on civilians’ after 60 killed in the capital
o Battleships are lurking off the coast of port city Odesa and families are preparing for attack
o Boris Johnson told Sky News Putin is modelling himself on brutal Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin
o Kremlin-backed news outlet Russia Today has had its UK TV licence revoked

People in the crowd hold a banner reading ‘For Putin!’

Young and old united in celebration in Moscow

Almost every single seat appeared to be filled in the 81,000-capacity stadium.

Russian military cadets and officers in uniform were among the tens of thousands of people at the massive celebration.

Mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, also attended the event and addressed the crowds.

People wave flags with the letter Z. Pic: AP

Civilians, young and old, and dressed in the colours of the national flag, smiled and waved, capturing the festivities on their mobile phones, some with their faces painted to show support for their country.

Flags with the letter Z, which has become a symbol of the Russian military, and a hashtag reading “we don’t abandon our own”, were also being waved on the stadium floor – packed too with revellers.

Putin puts his spin on Ukraine conflict

Sky correspondent Alistair Bunkall said: “We have become accustomed to seeing President Putin sitting one end of a very long table and either his senior security figure sitting the other end or any foreign leaders that have visited him.

“We have become used to him being paranoid about catching COVID and not wanting to be close to anybody – but now we see him out and about at a stadium in Moscow with thousands of people waving the Russian flag.

The Russian leader gave his speech from a stage at the centre of the stadium. Pic: AP

“As closed off as much as he might be to the rest of the world, I’m sure he can’t have failed to realise that continually sitting in a bunker gives the impression of a bunker mentality, and so he wants to try and prove that the Russian people and behind him and behind his, what he describes, as the ‘special operation’ inside Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin hailed Russia’s actions in Ukraine

“He has been praising that operation, saying that it’s going successfully. But it isn’t an operation, it’s an invasion, it’s a war that has so far yet failed to comprehensively take and hold a city. They have failed to even encircle the capital Kyiv.

“They have failed to unseat the government of President Zelenskyy. They have lost four of their major generals on the frontline, plus thousands of other troops and a lot of equipment as well.

“And this was supposed to be one of the most fearsome, one of the most powerful military forces in the world.

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Moment Russian tank attacked in Mariupol

“So the facts bear out: the operation, the invasion, the conflict – is not going well at all for Russia. The Ukrainians are putting up a resistance, and President Putin has given no indication that he’s necessarily aware of that, but one assumes that he must be.

“But this message is a message for his people. He has shut down much of independent media within Russia, he has shut down access to foreign media, social media, and so this is the spin that he is putting on the conflict to the Russian people.”

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WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll




The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.

WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.

Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.

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The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.


There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.

Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.

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Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.

Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.

There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.

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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”

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Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons




The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.

Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.

He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.

The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.

He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.


Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.

He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.

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His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.

During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.

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Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed




A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.

At least five people are confirmed to have died and possibly dozens are still missing following the disaster in the city of Changsha, in central China‘s Hunan Province, on 29 April.

The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.

Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.


All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.

At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.

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This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.

Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.

The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.

An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province

There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.

Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.

Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.

China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.

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