A man stands in front of a wrecked vehicles dump in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, 25 September 2022.EFE/EPA/STRINGER

Putin to formally annex four Ukrainian regions on Friday: Kremlin

Moscow, Sep, 29 (EFE).- Russia’s president Vladimir Putin will sign annexation decrees for four regions of Ukraine on Friday, the Kremlin has announced.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday said the “signing ceremony” to annex Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia would take place at 3pm Moscow time (GMT+3) in St.George’s Hall at the Grand Palace of the Kremlin.

The move to incorporate the Ukrainian regions into the Russian Federation follows controversial referenda in the territories – most of which are partially controlled by Russian forces and separatist allies – that have been slammed by Kyiv and Western governments as “sham” polls.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on agriculture issues via teleconference call, in Sochi, Russia, 27 September 2022. EFE/EPA/GAVRIIL GRIGOROV / SPUTNIK / KREMLIN POOL

The Russian-backed leaders of each region traveled to Moscow on Wednesday to formally request the annexations from Putin.
Pro-Russian authorities claimed between 87.05 and 99.23% of voters in the regions of eastern and southern Ukraine backed joining Russia.

Russian lawmakers are poised to formalize the annexation decrees in the coming week.

Moscow’s iconic Red Square is due to hold a ceremony to celebrate the annexation of the territories on Friday.

The Kremlin is yet to comment on whether Putin would be present at the public act.

A man casts his ballot during voting in a so-called referendum on the joining of Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine to Russia, in a hospital in Berdyansk, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, 25 September 2022. EFE/EPA/STRINGER

Much of Donetsk and Luhansk have been under de facto pro-Russian control since the 2014 uprising that led to war with Kyiv.

Moscow annexed Crimea that same year.

Russian forces seized control over swathes of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the early stages of the invasion launched in February this year.

Ukraine has called on its allies to condem the referendums.

In a statement Wednesday, the country’s foreign ministry added that the European Union, Nato and the G7 should “immediately and significantly increase pressure on Russia” by imposing tough new sanctions and delivering military assistance to Ukraine.