After declaring victory in Kremlin-backed sham referendums, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, will be holding a signing ceremony on Friday to annex four more areas of Ukraine, amounting to 15% of the war-torn country.
Putin will make a major speech at the Kremlin.
A stage has already been set up in Moscow’s Red Square, with billboards proclaiming the four regions as part of Russia and a concert planned for the evening. Giant video screens have been set up, with billboards proclaiming “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson – Russia!”
The move confirms that Putin is doubling down on his war against Ukraine despite suffering a major military reversal this month.
The event echoes Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, which has never been recognized by the majority of the international community.
As with Crimea, Russia’s two houses of parliament will formally ratify the annexation treaties next week. Putin is expected to address the upper house of parliament on October 4.
The US has said it will impose sanctions on Russia because of the staged referendums, while EU member states are considering an eighth round of measures, including sanctions on anyone involved in the votes.
More from the New York Post:
Moscow-installed administrations in the four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine claimed Tuesday night that 93% of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported annexation, as did 87% in the Kherson region, 98% in the Luhansk region and 99% in Donetsk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend a ceremony on Friday in the Kremlin where the four regions will be officially folded into Russia, spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Peskov said the pro-Moscow administrators of the regions will sign treaties to join Russia during the ceremony at the Kremlin’s St. George’s Hall.
The head of the upper house of the Russian parliament said it could consider the incorporation of the four partially occupied regions on Oct. 4, three days before Putin’s 70th birthday.
To annex the territories, which represent about 15% of Ukraine, some sort of treaty will need to be struck and ratified by the Russian parliament, which is controlled by Putin allies. The areas will then be seen as part of Russia and its nuclear umbrella will extend to them.
Putin has warned he would use nuclear weapons to protect Russian territory from attack.
Residents who escaped to Ukrainian-held areas in recent days have claimed people are being forced to mark ballots in the street by roving officials at gunpoint. Footage filmed during the exercise showed Russian-installed officials taking ballot boxes from house to house with armed men in tow.
“They can announce anything they want. Nobody voted in the referendum except a few people who switched sides. They went from house to house but nobody came out,” said Lyubomir Boyko, 43, from Golo Pristan, a village in Russian-occupied Kherson province.
Russia says voting was voluntary, in line with international law, and that turnout was high.
The US and its Western allies have sharply condemned the votes as a “sham” and vowed never to recognize their results.