In a recent address, Russian President Vladimir Putin extended his gratitude to the residents of Ukrainian regions that have been annexed by Russia.
The speech was part of what Russia calls the "Day of Reunification with Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson."
A Controversial Thank You
Putin's thank-you message was broadcasted on Friday evening, where he stated, "Thanks to you, your courage, and your determination, Russia has become even stronger."
He praised the residents for maintaining their patriotism despite the challenges they face. These regions are internationally recognized as part of Ukraine, making Putin's statement highly controversial.
Last year, Russia invaded Ukraine and took control of several parts of the country. In the regions Putin thanked, Russia conducted referendums to decide whether these areas should break away from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.
These referendums have been widely criticized and deemed illegal by the Western world.
Despite international condemnation, Putin insists that these four regions and Russia are one people. "We are one people, and together we can face any challenge," he said in his speech. The regions of Luhansk and Donetsk largely make up what is commonly referred to as the Donbas area, which has had significant Russian minorities since the 1930s.