At a rally in Moscow on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin paraphrased John 15:13 to justify the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which has killed hundreds of civilians, including dozens of children.

During his speech at the rally held in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium to “celebrate” the eighth anniversary of Crimea’s annexation, which is not recognized by most countries, Putin lauded the Russian military for “heroically” fighting in Ukraine.

“You know, I remember the words from the Bible. There is no other love rather than if someone gives soul for their friends,” Putin said, according to the BBC broadcast of his speech. The remark was followed by huge applause from the crowd.

Putin’s remark was a reference to John 15:13, which states: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

“We are seeing the heroic deeds of our guys in this operation,” Putin added, according to the CNN translation. “These words from the holy scripture of Christianity, it’s something that is very dear to those who profess this religion.”

“But everything is down to the facts that this universal value for all the peoples and all the confessions of Russia and for own people above all and the best confirmation of that is how our guys are fighting in the course of this military operation, shoulder to shoulder, helping and supporting each other,” he continued. “If the need comes, they will shield each other on the battlefield from the bullets as brothers. We have not had such unity for a long time.”

During Putin’s speech, Russia 24, the state-owned media outlet broadcasting the address, switched to footage of a military band playing on the same stage, The Moscow Times reported. The independent news outlet noted that “Russian state television is tightly controlled and such interruptions are highly unusual.”

However, the Kremlin later claimed the broadcast was “interrupted due to technical problems on the server.”

While the RIA Novosti news agency reported over 95,000 in attendance and over 100,000 outside the stadium, the newspaper cited reports of some people being forced to attend the rally.

“They stuck us in a bus and drove us here,” one woman was quoted as telling the SOTA news outlet outside the stadium.

Some reports in Russian media also suggested that people were offered 500 rubles (approximately $5) to attend the event.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said Friday it had recorded 2,149 civilian casualties, including 816 killed and 1,333 injured, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24….

The above comes from a March 19 story on the Christian Post.