Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees to annex four Ukrainian regions on Friday, saying that they are now part of Russia in a move that Ukraine and Western nations say they will not recognize.
In a speech in Moscow, Putin said that people in the four territories — Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk — “will become Russian citizens forever,” the BBC reported.
“The people have made their choice … this is the will of millions,” he said, according to the BBC. He said that the citizens of those regions have a “love for Russia.”
Putin called the annexation non-negotiable and permanent.
He accused the West of trying to “rob” Russia and turn its people into a “crowd of voiceless slaves,” the BBC reported.
But he also hinted at being open to peace talks with Ukraine, almost eight months after he first ordered an invasion of the country. A peace deal that sees Russia keep those regions is likely to be opposed by Ukraine.
Putin then signed the annexations into law after his speech.
Those regions make up around 15% of Ukraine’s remaining territory, Reuters reported. That calculation does not include the large Ukrainian region of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014 and still controls now.
It is not clear if Russia is claiming 100% of all of the four regions, as some of them are not entirely under Russia control, and Ukraine is fighting and making territorial gains in some.