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Kremlin: Four regions of Ukraine to be folded in

KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) – Russia confirmed yesterday it will formally annex parts of Ukraine where occupied areas held Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” on living under Moscow’s rule that the Ukrainian government and the West denounced as illegal and rigged.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend a ceremony today in the Kremlin when four regions of Ukraine 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 official annexation was widely expected following the votes that wrapped up on Tuesday in the areas under Russian occupation in Ukraine and after Moscow claimed residents overwhelming supported for their areas to formally become part of Russia.

The United States and its Western allies have sharply condemned the votes as “sham” and vowed never to recognise their results.

A man walks past a damaged building after a Russian attack in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. PHOTO: AP

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock yesterday joined other Western officials in denouncing the votes.

Moscow-installed administrations in the four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine claimed on Tuesday night that 93 per cent of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported annexation, as did 87 per cent in the Kherson region, 98 per cent in the Luhansk region and 99 per cent in Donetsk.

Ukraine too has dismissed the referendums as illegitimate, saying it has every right to retake the territories, a position that has won support from Washington. The Kremlin has been unmoved by the criticism.

After a counter-offensive by Ukraine this month dealt Moscow’s forces heavy battlefield setbacks, Russia said it would call up 300,000 reservists to join the fight.

It also warned it could resort to nuclear weapons.

Also yesterday, Ukrainian authorities said Russian shelling has killed at least eight civilians, including a child, and wounded scores of others.

A 12-year-old girl has been pulled out of rubble after an attack on Dnipro, officials said.

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