Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees recognizing the independence of the Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia, which are under Russian control as a result of the invasion that began in February.
This signing takes place hours before an official ceremony for the annexation to Russia of these two territories and the separatist eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, whose independence Putin had recognized at the start of the war.
In the four territories, self-convened referendums were held in recent days that were condemned by Ukraine and the West as “a farce.” Up to four million people were called to vote in these war-torn regions, which make up around 15% of Ukraine’s territory.
If Russia annexes the four regions, which Moscow does not fully control, could take the war to a new and more dangerous levelsince Moscow describes any attempt by Ukraine to recover them as an attack on its territory.
About Friday’s ceremony, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday the following: “Tomorrow at 15:00 in the Georgievsky Hall the signing of agreements on the entry of new territories into the Russian Federation will take place. Putin will pronounce a broad speech.
BBC journalist Paul Kirby reported that a stage has already been set up in Red Square for the ceremony, with billboards proclaiming that the four regions are part of Russia.
The Russian news agency TASS reported that a concert “in support of the referendum results” is scheduled.
The United States announced that will impose sanctions to Russia for the referendums and the Member States of the European Union are analyzing an eighth round of sanctions against Moscow.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Thursday that people in the occupied regions of Ukraine had been driven from their homes and workplaces by threats and sometimes at gunpoint.
“This is the opposite of free and fair elections. And this is the opposite of peace, it is a dictated peace,” he added.
“You have to answer verbally and the soldier marks the answer on the sheet and keeps it,” a woman in Enerhodar told the BBC.
Russian state media argued that the use of armed guards was done for security reasons.