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Kremlin: 4 Russia-occupied regions of Ukraine to be annexed on Friday

The four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine which held referendums derided internationally as a sham will be annexed by Russia on Friday, the Kremlin announced.

Moscow, 29 September 2022 (dpa/MIA) – The four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine which held referendums derided internationally as a sham will be annexed by Russia on Friday, the Kremlin announced.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that President Vladimir Putin would sign the annexation treaties in a ceremony in St George’s Hall in the Grand Kremlin Palace at 3 pm (1200 GMT) on Friday.

Putin will also deliver a speech at the ceremony, where the Moscow-appointed leaders of the four regions will also be present, Russian state media reported.

Russian occupation authorities in the regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson held referendums in the past week which they said showed an overwhelming majority in favour of leaving Ukraine and joining Russia.

Ukraine and Western powers denounced the five-day vote that ended Tuesday, saying the results were a foregone conclusion that would never be recognized internationally. There were reports of residents being coerced into voting out of fear for their safety.

In some regions, the occupation authorities reported over 99% approval.

The areas in the east and south of Ukraine have been occupied since soon after the start of the invasion by Russian forces in February.

Incorporating them into Russian territory marks a dramatic escalation in Putin’s faltering seven-month-old war.

The Russian leader said last week that Moscow would see Ukrainian attacks on annexed regions as attacks on Russia itself and would use all means to defend it – a thinly veiled reference to nuclear weapons.

Together with Crimea, nearly 20% of Ukraine’s territory is under Russian control, although Kiev has reclaimed territory in recent weeks.

Peskov said that Putin will also address Federation Assembly – the two chambers of parliament – in the coming days. The chambers are set to consider the annexations on Monday and Tuesday. A large pro-Putin rally in Moscow is also planned, the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, after a recent major prisoner swap, Ukraine and Russia have once again held an exchange.

Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said on Thursday six Ukrainian soldiers – two of them commanders – were released from Russian captivity.

The exchange was said to have taken place in the northern Ukrainian region of Chernihiv on the border with Belarus. How many prisoners the Russian side received was not disclosed.

A week ago, the two sides had exchanged a total of more than 270 prisoners with the help of international mediation, the largest exchange to date since the war began.

 

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