Kyiv: Russia will formally annex on Friday parts of Ukraine where separation "referenda" received approval, a Kremlin spokesperson said, confirming expectations of Ukrainian and Western officials who have denounced the Moscow-managed votes as illegal, forced and rigged.
Four regions of Ukraine — Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — will be folded into Russia during a Kremlin ceremony attended by President Vladimir Putin, spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.
Peskov said the pro-Moscow administrators of those regions would sign treaties to join Russia during the ceremony at the Kremlin's St George's Hall.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called an emergency meeting of the National Security and Defence Council for Friday, apparently in response to the Russian move.
The official annexation was widely expected following the votes that wrapped up on Tuesday in areas under Russian occupation and administered by Moscow-installed officials.
Ukraine's supporters in the West have described the stage-managed referenda on living under Russian rule as a bald-faced land grab based on lies. “It's absolutely unacceptable,” said Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, whose country currently holds the European Union presidency. “We reject such one-sided annexation based on a fully falsified process with no legitimacy.”
Lipavsky described the pro-Russia referenda as "theatre play" and insisted the regions remain "Ukrainian territory". Armed Russian troops went door-to-door with election officials to collect ballots in five days of voting that produced suspiciously high margins in favour of joining Russia.
Ukrainian officials said the military escorts also took down the names of residents who voted against annexation.