Russian President Vladimir Putin will annex 4 Ukrainian regions during the ceremony on Friday


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On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin will formally begin annexing four more regions of Ukraine in a signing ceremony following the conclusion of self-administered referendums this week that the West and Kyiv have decried as a sham.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that the ceremony would be held in Moscow “on agreements on joining new territories to the Russian Federation”, Reuters first reported.

The “agreement” will apparently be signed “with the four territories that held referenda and made corresponding demands to the Russian side”, he added.

Konstantin Ivashchenko (L), former CEO of the Azovmash plant and appointed pro-Russian mayor of Mariupol, visits a polling station as people cast their votes during a referendum in Mariupol September 27, 2022.
(STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

RUSSIA PLAYS DEFENSE AS UKRAINE ADVANCE IN LUHANSK DESPITE REFERENDUM

Moscow-based regional officials from Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaphorizhzhia and Kherson are expected to represent the four regions after claiming to have put on a monumental show of support for Russia’s illegal seizure of Ukrainian territory.

Polls end on Tuesday after five days of voting organized by Russian proxies who claimed to have garnered 93% civilian support in Zaporizhzhia, 87% in Kherson, 98% in Luhansk and 99% in Donetsk.

Western officials have repeatedly rejected referendums and pointed to Russia’s latest move to annex parts of Ukraine when it staged a vote in Crimea in 2014 and claimed around 97% of Crimeans were in favor of leaving Ukraine.

A military member of the Luhansk People's Republic votes at a polling station in Luhansk, Russian-backed separatist-controlled Luhansk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, Friday, September 23, 2022.

A military member of the Luhansk People’s Republic votes at a polling station in Luhansk, Russian-backed separatist-controlled Luhansk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine, Friday, September 23, 2022.
(AP Photo)

RUSSIAN PROXY’S BULLY UKRAINIANS AND FORCE A REFERENDUM VOTE ON ANNEX: LOCAL OFFICIAL

Later reports showed the election was rigged with only 30% of Crimeans voting even in the debates and with only 15% supporting the annexation of the peninsula.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week accused the Kremlin of bringing in Russians to vote in referendums and Ukrainian officials over the weekend reported coercive tactics involving intimidation to force Ukrainians to vote.

People walk past a billboard reading "Forever with Russia" in Luhansk, Luhansk People's Republic controlled by Russian-backed separatists, in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, September 27, 2022.

People walk past a billboard reading “Forever with Russia” in Luhansk, in the Luhansk People’s Republic controlled by Russian-backed separatists, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, September 27, 2022.
(AP Photo)

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The annexation of the four eastern and southern regions means that Russia will start claiming another 15% of Ukraine as Russian territory.

Moscow has repeatedly said it would view an attack on the regions, where heavy fighting has persisted for seven months, as an attack on Russia itself – leaving some defense officials to fear Russia may resort to tactics even more aggressive like nuclear escalation.

Putin is expected to deliver a speech after the ceremony.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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