Russia will annex 4 occupied Ukrainian regions at ceremony on Friday, Putin spokesperson says 

The Kremlin will host a ceremony on Friday at which agreements will be signed on the annexation of occupied Ukrainian territories to the Russian Federation, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson told reporters on Thursday.

Dmitry Peskov said the ceremony would take place on Friday at 3 p.m. local time (8 a.m. ET).

Putin will deliver a speech and meet with Russian-backed leaders of the four occupied regions on the sidelines of the ceremony, he added.

Separatist leaders from the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics all traveled to Moscow following the announcement of poll results.

The four territories, which together make up around 18% of Ukraine’s territory, recently held Moscow-backed “referendums” on joining Russia. These have been widely condemned by Western leaders as a “sham.”

Billboards proclaiming “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson – Russia!” and giant video screens have been set up on Red Square, according to Reuters on Thursday.

Members of the lower house of the Russian parliament have also received invitations to Friday’s ceremony at the Kremlin, state news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing a post by Denis Parfyonov, a Communist Party deputy, on his Telegram channel.

A man casts his ballot during a referendum in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, on September 27.
A man casts his ballot during a referendum in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, on September 27. (AP)

Some context: “Votes” for referendums on joining Russia, held in the four occupied areas from Friday to Tuesday, are contrary to international law and have been universally dismissed as “a sham” by Ukraine and Western nations, including US President Joe Biden.

Counts cited in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia ranged from 87.05% approval to claims of nearly universal verdicts, yet such figures stand in stark contrast to reality. According to a CNN poll of Ukrainians in February, just before Russia’s invasion, no region in the country had more than one in five people supporting Ukrainian unification with Russia.

CNN’s Jo Shelley contributed reporting to this post.

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