Russian president Vladimir Putin told invited spectators watching a televised patriotic pop concert on Moscow's Red Square on Friday that Russia is fighting for its historical future and for a fair and free path now, so that dictatorship and despotism will be forever left behind in the past.
"Nowadays we are fighting for a just and free path, first and foremost, for ourselves, for Russia. For diktat and despotism to be a thing of the past forever. I am convinced that countries and nations realize that the policy build on exceptionalism of whoever, on the suppression of other cultures and peoples, is inherently criminal and that we must turn this shameful page over," the president said.
The concert, held in the shadow of the Kremlin walls, was being held to celebrate the annexation of four regions of Ukraine, for which Putin had signed documents a few hours earlier at a ceremony in the Kremlin, reports Reuters.
Flanked by the leaders of their Russian-backed administrations, with the multicoloured spires of the 16th-century St Basil's Cathedral as the backdrop, Putin said people in the regions had made a choice to rejoin their "historic motherland". He said Russia would do everything to support them, boost their security and rebuild their economies.
"Welcome home!" he said, prompting chants of "Russia! Russia!" from the flag-waving crowd in the vast square.
Huge video screens showed Putin leading the spectators in three cheers of "Hurrah!" for the annexed territories, followed by a rendition of the national anthem.
The ceremony culminated in the 69-year-old leader chanting "Russia Russia!" as he clasped the hands of the four Russian-backed officials he wants to run the annexed regions, which Ukraine is fighting to win back.
Putin pointed out that "the beginning of the collapse of Western hegemony is irreversible."
"And I say again that it will never be like before. A battlefield which we have been summoned by fate and history is the battlefield for our people, for a great historical Russia," the president added.
he Russian president's proclamation of Russian rule over 15% of Ukraine - the biggest annexation in Europe since World War Two - has been firmly rejected by Western countries and even many of Russia's close allies.
Key statements from Putin's statement compiled by Tass and Reuters
On new regions
Residents of Donbass, as well as of the Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions "have made their choice, an unambiguous choice": "People living in Lugansk and Donetsk, as well as in the Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions have become our citizens. Once and for all."
"We will defend our land with all the forces and means at our disposal and we will do everything to ensure the safe life of our citizens. This is the great liberation mission of our people."
Russia will do everything to make sure that the residents of these regions feel the support of the entire country: "We will definitely rebuild destroyed cities and towns, houses, schools, hospitals, theaters and museums. We will restore and develop industrial enterprises, factories, infrastructure, social and pension systems, health care and education."
On peace talks with Kiev
"We call on the Kiev regime to immediately cease fire, all hostilities, to stop the war that it had unleashed back in 2014, and to return to the negotiating table."
Moscow is not going to discuss the status of its new regions at these talks: "Present-day Kiev authorities must treat this free expression of the will of the people with respect and in no other way. Only this can be the path to peace. "We will not discuss the choice of the people in Donetsk, Lugansk, the Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions, it has been made. Russia will not betray it."
The West has "no moral right" to assess the results of the referendums or "even to talk about freedom and democracy": "It does not and never has."
On confrontation with West
The West is ready to "step over everything" in order to preserve its "neocolonial system" that allows it to "plunder the world" and "collect tribute from humanity." The dictatorship of elites is directed against its own people and acquires "the features of <...> outright Satanism".
Western countries want to turn Russia into a colony, and the real reasons for the hybrid war unleashed against it are "greed and the intention to preserve their unlimited power": "They do not need Russia at all, but we need it. In the situation around Ukraine, they just essentially unmasked themselves, showing their true selves".
Now the West needs to break Russia at all costs, but it is a great power, which will not live by its "rigged, false rules" and will fight for a "just and free future". The breakdown of Western hegemony is irreversible, a "liberating anti-colonial movement" is developing within a variety of countries and societies: "It will never be like it was before."
On Nord Stream emergency
Western countries are behind the emergency at the Nord Streams: "Sanctions are not enough for the Anglo-Saxons. They have resorted to sabotage, it's unbelievable, but true, having organized explosions on the international gas pipelines of the Nord Stream, which runs along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. They have actually begun to destroy the pan-European energy infrastructure."
"The United States is the only country in the world that has twice used nuclear weapons, destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and setting a precedent."
"Even today, they actually occupy Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and other countries, and at the same time cynically call them allies of equal standing."
On global crisis
Western elites are not going to find constructive solutions to the global food and energy crisis that arose by their own doing, but instead "shift the blame back to Russia": "They are lying again."
Only real values can overcome the crisis: "No one can be heated with inflated capitalizations as energy is needed. <...> You can't feed anyone with paper money, we need food."
The grain contract, concluded in Istanbul, is "another fraud and outright deceit", as only five percent of the food exported from Ukraine went to the poorest countries.
About restoration of Soviet Union
The fall of the USSR, contrary to the direct will of the majority of its residents, turned into a national catastrophe, but Moscow does not want to restore it: "The Soviet Union no longer exists, the past cannot be recovered. And even Russia today does not need it, we do not aspire to it."