Russia confirmed on Thursday it will formally annex parts of Ukraine where occupied areas held Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” on living under Moscow’s rule that the Ukrainian government and the West denounced as illegal and rigged.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend a ceremony on Friday in the Kremlin when four regions of Ukraine will be officially folded into Russia, spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Mr Peskov said the pro-Moscow administrators of the regions will sign treaties to join Russia during the ceremony at the Kremlin’s St George’s Hall.
The official annexation was widely expected following the votes that wrapped up on Tuesday in the areas under Russian occupation in Ukraine and after Moscow claimed residents overwhelming supported for their areas to formally become part of Russia.
The United States and its Western allies have sharply condemned the votes as “sham” and vowed never to recognise their results.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday joined other Western officials in denouncing the votes.
“Under threats and sometimes even (at) gunpoint people are being taken out of their homes or workplaces to vote in glass ballot boxes,” she said at a conference in Berlin.
“This is the opposite of free and fair elections,” Ms Baerbock said.
“And this is the opposite of peace. It’s dictated peace. As long as this Russian diktat prevails in the occupied territories of Ukraine, no citizen is safe. No citizen is free.”