Vladimir Putin urges citizens to unite in speech to mark Russia Day

Vladimir Putin urged Russian citizens to “stand united” and rely on “deep feelings of patriotism”, in a speech to mark Russia Day as the war in Ukraine rages on.

Speaking in the Kremlin, the Russian president said the importance of unity and patriotism was “clearer than ever”.

Mr Putin praised Russian leader Peter the Great, the 18th-century czar he compared himself to earlier this week. Calling him a “great reformer”, Mr Putin paid tribute to his “profound transformations” and urged Russian citizens to recognize the strength of centuries-old traditions.

“Our ancestors gave us this unity, our loyalty to the homeland and responsibility for its future,” he said.

“We know the strength of these centuries-old traditions, moral values ​​and spiritual foundations, which have been reaffirmed throughout the millennial history of our multi-ethnic nation, bringing us together today.

“Our nation has long considered this heartfelt and deep patriotic sentiment to be sacrosanct. The importance of unity for our people, our society, our country is clearer to us today than ever.

Russia Day marks the official adoption of the Declaration of Sovereignty of the Russian Federation on June 12, 1990 and has been celebrated for three decades.

It comes as Russian forces in Ukraine blew up a bridge connecting the beleaguered Ukrainian town of Sievierodonetsk to another town across the river, cutting off a possible escape route for civilians, local officials say.

Sievierodonetsk has become the center of the battle for control of the eastern region of Donbass in Ukraine. Parts of the city have been pulverized in some of the bloodiest fighting since the Kremlin launched its invasion on February 24.

Russian forces have taken most of the town, while Ukraine still controls an industrial area and a chemical plant where hundreds of people are sheltering.

But the Russians destroyed a bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River linking Sievierodonetsk to its twin city of Lysychansk, Lugansk provincial governor Serhiy Gaidai said.

This leaves only one of the three bridges still standing and reduces the number of routes that could be used to evacuate civilians or for Ukrainian troops to withdraw to positions on the west side of the river.

In Lysychansk itself, Russian shelling killed a woman and destroyed four houses and a shopping center, Mr Gaidai said.

The head of administration in Sievierodonetsk said that just over a third of the city remained under the control of Ukrainian forces and about two thirds was in Russian hands.

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Post expires at 12:20am on Friday June 24th, 2022