Putin Invokes Soviet Heroes Lenin, Stalin, Says Russia 'Created' Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin justified backing the separatist regions in conflict with Ukraine Monday in a speech containing claims that former Russian leaders Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin wrongfully gave Ukraine the land.

In his speech, Putin announced Russia would recognize the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic. The Russian president's announcement comes after years of fighting in the Donbas region and while it'll stoke fierce criticism from the west, Putin argued the area rightfully belongs to Russia.

While Putin didn't outright declare war on Ukraine, he railed against the belief Ukraine was a separate entity from Russia. He said Ukraine was built by Russia and has little to no culture or identity outside of Russia.

"Let's start with the fact that modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely, by the Bolshevik, communist Russia. This process began almost immediately after the 1917 revolution," Putin said on Monday.

Putin added that Lenin, who rose to power after the downfall of the Romanov royal family, was the "author and creator" of Ukraine. He said Lenin made a "mistake" when the Bolsheviks gave land to Ukraine but claimed they did so to stay in power no matter what. He also blamed Stalin for transferring to Ukraine "some lands that previously belonged to Poland, Romania and Hungary."

putin ukraine lenin stalin
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia "created" Ukraine in a speech attacking the nation's sovereignty. Putin speaks during a joint press conference with German Chancellor following their meeting over Ukraine security at the Kremlin, in Moscow, on February 15. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images

"And in 1954, for some reason, [former President Nikita] Khrushchev took Crimea from Russia and gave it to Ukraine. Actually, this is how the territory of Soviet Ukraine was formed," Putin said.

Putin made a similar argument last summer when he called Russians and Ukrainians "one people." He accused Ukrainian leaders of imposing Ukrainization on "those who did not see themselves as Ukrainian. The Russian president also said Bolsheviks bestowed generous "territorial gifts" because they "dreamt of a world revolution that would wipe out national states."

"It is no longer important what exactly the idea of the Bolshevik leaders who were chopping the country into pieces was. We can disagree about minor details, background and logics behind certain decisions. One fact is crystal clear: Russia was robbed, indeed," Putin wrote in the summer essay.

The Russian president reiterated on Monday that Russia was "robbed" and said Ukraine never had a tradition of true sovereignty.

Ahead of his formal remarks on Monday, Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz of his intentions to support the independent states of Donetsk and Luhansk. Both European leaders expressed disappointment with the development, according to the Kremlin, and some officials fear it could be the catalyst for a large-scale war.

Additionally, Putin used the speech to accuse the United States of trying to contain Russia's growth and just using Ukraine as an excuse to sanction Russia. He said he sees "no end" to the violence in the Donbas region and claimed the country tried to resolve the conflict, but everything was "done in vain."

Russia's recognition of the two areas effectively kills the Minsk agreement. The 2015 document called for a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists and many hoped it would provide a resolution to the conflict.