Thousands of people gathered today Friday in Red Square, Moscow, to celebrate the first anniversary of the annexation of four regions of Ukraine.

Organizers were handing out Russian flags to the crowd.

Facing the spectators, the stage was surrounded by giant screens that projected the slogan “one nation, one family, one Russia” – as this event is also titled. Above it was the inscription “Donbass is the New Russia”, a reference to the plan to create a Russian territory in southern and eastern Ukraine, which is denounced as “imperialist” by Kiev.

At the end of September 2022, the Russian president Vladimir Putin signed the documents by which the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson were annexed to Russia. Soon after, he appeared at a festive concert in Red Square and, addressing the residents of these areas, said to them: “Welcome home.” Putin considers these lands “returned to their historical homeland”.

The annexations were condemned by Kiev and Western countries, who deemed them “illegal”.

September 30 was announced “Reunion Day” from Putin.

This year the Russian president is not expected to attend the events, but the presenter of the concert took it upon himself to repeat his words. “Exactly one year ago, historical justice triumphed. Russian lands were rejoined to Russia. Russia does not abandon its own people. We are one country,” he said, while the crowd chanted “Russia!” rhythmically.

Some of the spectators, while waiting for the concert to start, ate ice cream or sang or took selfies.

It is recalled that Russia does not fully control these four Ukrainian regions and in recent months has been facing a Ukrainian counterattack aimed at liberating them.