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Russia to formally annex 4 Ukrainian regions on Friday

Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony on Friday formally annexing four areas of Ukraine after illegal sham referendums, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

The Russian president will make a speech at the Kremlin during a signing ceremony that will take place on Friday at 3 p.m. Moscow time (2 p.m. CET).

Russian authorities last week started asking people in the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia if they wanted to join Russia, in an attempt to formalize the annexation of the four areas. Russia does not fully control three of the four regions, while its grip over the fourth, Luhansk, is threatened by the eastward advance of Ukrainian forces. 

According to Russian news agencies, Peskov said that Putin will meet with the Russian-backed leaders of the four regions.

The self-styled referendums, with military escorts and with voters held at gunpoint, took place over five days, with Russian-backed authorities claiming that a majority of residents said yes to joining Russia by Tuesday evening.

The announcement from Peskov comes a day after Brussels proposed a new set of sanctions against Moscow.

A European Commission spokesperson said during a daily press conference on Thursday: “We are ready to make the Kremlin pay a hefty price for this new escalation in the conflict and in the invasion that it started against Ukraine. And our new sanctions package is the first part of our answer to this.”

Wilhelmine Preussen contributed reporting.

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