Sept 29 (BBC) – Russia’s Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony on Friday formally annexing four more areas of Ukraine after self-styled referendums condemned by Ukraine and the West as a sham.
Russian-backed officials had earlier claimed the five-day exercise secured almost total popular support.
So-called votes were held in Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, and in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south.
The Russian president 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. There were echoes of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, which also followed a discredited referendum and was heralded by a presidential victory speech from a stage.
However, no independent monitoring of the process took place and there were accounts of election officials going from door to door escorted by armed soldiers.
The US has said it will impose sanctions on Russia because of the referendums and EU member states are considering the eighth round of measures.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Thursday that people in occupied regions of Ukraine had been taken from their homes and workplaces by threat and sometimes at gunpoint.
“This is the opposite of free and fair elections. And this is the opposite of peace, it is a dictated peace,” she said.