Whatever Putin's exact words may have been and whether Al-Jazeera may have twisted them a bit (they don't claim it's an exact quote by the way), the DPR leader Pushilin was recently quoted as saying (in the only English source I found):
“The Donetsk People’s Republic has a huge potential and development prospects, and we are happy to enter the family of Russian regions as equal partners who have something to offer,” Pushilin said at the second stage of the XXVII Conference of the Moscow city regional branch of the United Russia party ”, reports the Daily Storm.
It's hard to argue that's not a "pro-Russia" position of the de-facto authorities in the region, which Russia also recognizes as legitimate (de jure).
And you can probably find dozens more quotes along lines from the leaders of the DPR & LPR, assuming you bother to trawl the Russian websites. I would consider these reliable as far as quoting the DPR/LPR leadership goes. They tend not to make more international news.
(The last site is not the [Western neo-nazi] Daily Stormer, but https://dailystorm.ru/, by the way. The ultimate source of that quote appears to be the URA.ru Russian [somewhat regional] news agency.)
If you look at one of the latest news pieces from the latter, in google translation it reads as:
The Kherson region was liberated from the nationalists and the Ukrainian military during a Russian special operation to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine. It happened on March 15th. They have already started issuing Russian passports. The authorities of Kherson announced a rush demand for this document.
So they are somewhat obviously claiming a lot of the population of the other regions entered by Russian troops (Kherson is not in the Donbas proper) is happy to get Russian passports. Editorializing something like that as "pro-Russia" attitude is not much of a stretch.
And if one wants to go down the memory lane, as far back as 2014 Putin spoke (original) of the "militia of Novorossiya" (which is broader region than the Donbas) as having successfully opposed "the military operation of Kyiv". So when Al-Jazeera uses the word "maintained" in re Putin's positions, it's probably alluding to something like that. As Vox commented then on that choice of terminology of the Kremlin:
The statement itself was otherwise banal, but in giving the rebels this name, he is seemingly not just referring to them as an extension of Russia (everybody already knew this) and not just adopting the heavily loaded imperial terminology, but endorsing that the rebels and the land they stand on are, in a sense, part of Russia.
Some of the rebels themselves used the Novorossiya flag around that time, so that might have been among the reasons why Putin used the term. And in a piece of news from 2015:
Putin said [...] in his annual televised Q&A session last year, recalling that the breakaway territories in Ukraine had a long, shared history with Russia:
I would like to remind you that what was called Novorossiya (New Russia) back in the tsarist days — Kharkov, Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Nikolayev and Odessa — were not part of Ukraine back then. These territories were given to Ukraine in the 1920s by the Soviet government. Why? Who knows. They were won by Potyomkin and Catherine the Great in a series of well-known wars. The centre of that territory was Novorossiysk, so the region is called Novorossiya. Russia lost these territories for various reasons, but the people remained.
Of course, if one extrapolates just a bit from the more recent (2021) speeches, almost all the people of Ukraine are or at least should be pro-Russia...
I would like to emphasize that the wall that has emerged in recent years between Russia and Ukraine, between the parts of what is essentially the same historical and spiritual space, to my mind is our great common misfortune and tragedy. These are, first and foremost, the consequences of our own mistakes made at different periods of time. But these are also the result of deliberate efforts by those forces that have always sought to undermine our unity. The formula they apply has been known from time immemorial – divide and rule. There is nothing new here. Hence the attempts to play on the ”national question“ and sow discord among people, the overarching goal being to divide and then to pit the parts of a single people against one another.
So depending how much one wants to read between the lines... Donbas is [pro-]Russia, Novorossiya is [pro-]Russia, Ukraine is or should be [pro-]Russia (according to those speeches).