Russian President Vladimir Putin told schoolchildren on Thursday (September 1) that his country’s soldiers were fighting in Ukraine to protect Russia, as well as the people of the Donbas region.
Speaking at an event in Kaliningrad, in the Russian exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, Putin admitted that many of those fighting for Russia had died.
The Russian president told the select group of students that it was important that Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine knew what they were giving their lives for, and that society – including Russia’s young people – offered the military their full support.
Putin’s trip to the Kaliningrad exclave coincided with Russia’s traditional September 1 back-to-school celebration known in Russia as Knowledge Day.
Earlier this year, the Putin said Russian schools should hold a flag-raising ceremony and sing the national anthem once a week to encourage patriotism among their students.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities.
Ukraine and the West describe Russia’s actions as unprovoked aggression that has caused millions to flee, killed thousands and turned cities into rubble.