Russia grabs Ukraine's territory through referendum
Russia has formally annexed four occupied regions of Ukraine, Putin declared in a speech on Friday. Putin and leaders of the four regions signed treaties to annex Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia – a move which has been denounced as illegal by Ukraine and Western powers.
During a 37-minute long speech, Putin spoke about the break up of the Soviet Union, Western “colonial policy”, nuclear weapons, and his view of Western morals. He declared the regions would "forever" be part of Russia.
Kyiv reacted by launching a new, fast-track bid to join the Nato alliance.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine had long been a "de-facto" member of the security bloc, and accused Moscow of redrawing borders "using murder, blackmail, mistreatment and lies".
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was reluctant to be drawn on the bid, saying the decision rested with the bloc's 30 members. But he condemned Moscow's annexation of Ukrainian territory, calling the move "the most serious escalation since the start of the war".
US President Joe Biden also accused Mr Putin of a "fraudulent attempt" to claim Ukrainian territory.
"The illegal annexation proclaimed by Putin won't change anything," EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. "All territories illegally occupied by Russian invaders are Ukrainian land and will always be part of this sovereign nation."
And French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to "stand by Ukraine in order to deal with Russian aggression and to enable Ukraine to recover its full sovereignty across its entire territory".
"The people have made their choice," Mr Putin said. "This is the will of millions of people."
The ceremony concluded with the leaders of the four annexed regions joining Mr Putin to sign "decrees", before they joined hands and led the assembled crowd in chants of "Russia, Russia".