“The truth is with us and in the truth is strength. The victory will belong to us,” it sounded. He called the inhabitants of the annexed areas “welcome home”.

    “Russia not only opens the doors of its home to these people, but also opens its heart,” Putin said. He spoke on a specially installed podium on the Kremlin wall. At the top were listed the names of the four annexed territories – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, Kherson – as well as Russia. On the left was the inscription “Choice of the people”, on the right “Together forever”.

    The Russian president spoke of a “special and historic day of truth, of justice”. According to him, Russian soldiers are currently “heroically defending people’s choice” in Ukraine. He also sang the Russian national anthem along with the four appointed leaders of the occupied territories.

    Putin’s announcement comes at a time when his troops on the front have found themselves in dire straits. Several thousand Russian soldiers are surrounded by Ukrainians in the town of Lyman. “All access roads have been cut off. The Russians have no choice but to surrender, unless of course the Kremlin leaders don’t care about the fate of their soldiers,” said Ukrainian adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.