The ceremony officially annexing occupied Ukrainian territories into the Russian Federation began on Friday at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow.
During the speech, Putin referred to the "tragic fall" of the USSR, claiming that residents of the eastern Ukrainian provinces were "taken from their native motherland as the USSR was torn apart," and that this annexation will return a thousand-year bond.
Putin further claimed that these "Russian population with a thousand-year history with the motherland" were violently prosecuted by the "Kyiv regime," alluding that even teachers, women and children were targeted "for years."
While referring to the West, Putin said they would see Russia "turn into a vassal like so many others that the west has manipulated," lashing out at "Western colonialism" from before WW2 as an example of western aggression, further claiming that "Russophobia" is a global phenomenon.
Further elaborating on WW2, Putin complained of the "senseless, unnecessary" destruction of several German cities by the US and UK, pointing out that the US is the only country to use nuclear weapons on Japan, "setting a new precedent."
"Western aggression known no bounds, as with the destruction of the Nordstrom pipelines," Putin said, saying that Western attempts to install regimes "as they see fit" would not work on Russia and other "sensible countries."
"Today we are fighting the freedom and independence of our own country from Western influence so that hegemony and dictatorship may never return," Putin continued. "We are fighting so that it will be clear that our people, culture and language will never be destroyed by others."
Putin concluded by saying that Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia will now "return to their rightful place as part of the motherland."
A signing ceremony was held shortly afterwards, officially solidifying Russia's declaration of annexing the regions.
Putin speaks at Red Square concert
Putin spoke at a patriotic pop concert on Moscow's Red Square after the ceremony, In it, he said that Russia is ready to resume negotiations with Ukraine, but will not discuss the choice of residents of Donbass, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, claiming "they became Russians forever."
Moscow, Putin stressed, will defend its new territories "with all available forces and means," and that the West has no moral right to challenge the results of the referenda.
Putin later stressed that Russia would achieve victory in its military campaign with Ukraine, and repeated an assertion that Russia had created the modern Ukrainian state.
The signing of the accession agreements was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Russian-installed leaders of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, as well as both houses of the Russian parliament.
Earlier Friday, Putin signed decrees recognizing the independence of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, a legal prerequisite for allowing their absorption into the country. Russia had previously recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as independent republics in February.
Disputed referenda in occupied Ukraine
The Friday signing ceremony comes after disputed referenda on joining the Russian Federation in the occupied Ukrainian territories, beginning last Friday and ending on Tuesday.
"The results of the voting have been tabulated, with the overwhelming majority of voters supporting unification with Russia," said the Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday. The ministry claimed that there had been a high turnout and support for the accession into the Federation ranged from 99% to 87% among the four regions.
While the ministry said the referenda took place with observers and "in full conformity with the standards and principles of international law," refugees told of forced voting at gunpoint, and footage was released of unticked ballots being counted.
Rejection of "sham" referenda
The European Union said on Friday it firmly condemned the annexation by Russia of occupied Ukraine regions, adding it would never recognise "illegal" referendums held there and would tighten its sanctions to increase pressure on Moscow.
The European Council, which groups the 27 EU member states, said in a statement on behalf of those members that Russia's wilful undermining of the international order was putting global security at risk.
"We do not and will never recognise the illegal 'referenda' that Russia has engineered as a pretext for this further violation of Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, nor their falsified and illegal results," the statement said.
"We will strengthen our restrictive measures countering Russia's illegal actions. They will further increase pressure on Russia to end its war of aggression," it said.
"This farce in the occupied territories cannot even be called an imitation of a referendum," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Tuesday night.
Ukrainian officials have vowed to restore their control over all territories occupied by Russia.
"The Kremlin’s sham referenda are a futile effort to mask what amounts to a further attempt at a land grab in Ukraine," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Thursday. "The United States does not, and will never, recognize the legitimacy or outcome of these sham referenda or Russia’s purported annexation of Ukrainian territory."
A chorus of countries, including US allies such as Israel and the United Kingdom, said that they would not recognize the results of the referenda. The United Nations Security Council was set on Friday to vote on a draft resolution condemning the referenda. However, Russia sits on the security council as a permanent member with veto powers.
"The Kremlin’s sham referenda are a futile effort to mask what amounts to a further attempt at a land grab in Ukraine."Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia
The four territories set to be annexed on Friday comprised around 15% of Ukraine, and formed a land bridge to the Crimean peninsula, which had been seized and annexed by Russia in 2014.
Donetsk and Luhansk's Russia-backed separatists have been in conflict with the Ukrainian government since 2014. The regions have a significant ethnic Russian minority.
Kherson's main city was one of the first major Ukrainian population centers to fall in the Russian invasion. The port city of the same name as the region sits at a strategic position at the mouth of the Dnipro River, which bisects Ukraine.
Zaporizhzhia has notable sites within its territory, such as the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Enerhodar, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.