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My thought when I watched this was, “It’s going down. The coup is on.”

But that’s because we’re all jumping at shadows, waiting for something in Russia to break. Every bit of unusual news feels portentous, even when it’s not that unusual.

We should bear Hanlon’s razor in mind: Never attribute to malice — or coup-plotters — that which is adequately explained by incompetence. And judging by how things are going across the border in Ukraine, Russia’s state institutions don’t want for incompetence.

Today is the anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea so Putin seized the opportunity to hold a pro-war rally at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. It’s not like him to appear before crowds but he’s clearly smarting from the unflattering comparisons to Zelensky, the man of the people who refuses to leave Kiev.

He drew a good crowd, albeit with rumors swirling that some attendees were paid to be there while others had no choice:

There was music, there were speeches, there were lots and lots and lots of flags, a jolly festival atmosphere befitting a country whose centuries-long status as a major power disintegrated in less than a month and is now desperate to pretend otherwise. The set looked like Wrestlemania, noted Financial Times reporter Max Seddon, which seems appropriate. Pro wrestling is fake, and evidently so is Russia’s reputation as a military juggernaut unsurpassed by any country except the United States.

Eventually the great man himself walked out, looking cozy in a $15,000 coat as his country faces economic collapse caused by his folly in Ukraine:

He said what you’d expect him to say:

“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 told a rally at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium…

“Shoulder to shoulder, they help each other, 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,” he said…

Putin says the operation in Ukraine was necessary because the United States was using the country to threaten Russia and Russia had to defend against the “genocide” of Russian-speaking people by Ukraine…

The stage where Putin spoke was decked out with slogans “For a world without Nazism” and “For our president”, using the “Z” – markings used in the military operation in Ukraine.

And then, something curious happened:

The coup-plotters had struck mid-rally! Why, soon it would be forbidden in Russia to acknowledge that Putin had ever existed.

But no, that’s unlikely. For one thing, the ending of his speech apparently aired later:

Putin’s spokesman blamed the cutaway on “a technical fault on a server,” although this explanation seems more plausible:

It would be in character for Putin not to have delivered his speech live, not wanting anyone to know his whereabouts at a given moment. If you believe the rumors, his paranoia about an assassination attempt led him to replace most of his personal staff recently. Possibly he gave his speech at a different point in today’s rally and then had it aired on state TV after he’d already left the stadium.

And because of Russia’s brain drain, the C-listers now manning the posts at Russian state TV botched the editing.

It wasn’t the only glitch in today’s program either, assuming this was a glitch and not a crude way to censor the speaker on the fly during her comments:

Russia’s not sending its best anymore, whether on the battlefield or inside the control room.

Speaking of jumping at shadows, I’ve seen no updates or alarms about the odd pattern of flights leaving Moscow yesterday. So this assessment is presumably correct:

The U.S. canceled an ICBM test that had been scheduled during the early days of the war so that Russia wouldn’t mistake it for a provocation. Yesterday’s flights were apparently *designed* as a provocation, a visual reminder for U.S. intelligence after Biden announced a new weapons package for Ukraine about where this conflict could lead if it keeps escalating. You’re not worried, are you?

Update: The BBC was on the scene at the rally. Some attendees weren’t there by choice, or at least not to cheer on the war:

Source: This post first appeared on HotAir

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