Russia’s Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony on Friday to annex four more areas of Ukraine after referendums condemned by Ukraine and the West as a sham, the BBC reports.
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 and a concert planned for the evening.
The event echoes Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, which also followed a discredited referendum and was heralded by a Kremlin signing followed by a presidential victory speech in parliament.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the “pseudo-referendums” were worthless and did not change reality. “The territorial integrity of Ukraine will be restored. And our reaction to recognition of the results by Russia will be very harsh.”
“Tomorrow at 15:00 (12:00 GMT) in the St George Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace a signing ceremony will be held on incorporating the new territories into Russia,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Separate agreements will be signed with the two Russian-backed separatist leaders from the east and the two Russian-appointed officials from the south.
As with Crimea, Russia’s two houses of parliament will formally ratify the annexation treaties next week. The Russian president is expected to address the upper house of parliament on Oct. 4, three days before his 70th birthday.
The U.S. has said it will impose sanctions on Russia because of the staged referendums, while European Union member states are considering an eighth round of measures, including sanctions on anyone involved in the votes.
Seven months after Russian forces invaded Ukraine from the north, east and south, war is still raging on front lines in all four areas. The capital of the southern region of Zaporizhzhia is firmly under the control of Ukraine’s government, and a counter-offensive is under way in Kherson, reports the BBC.
Although Russian-appointed officials have been calling for annexation for several months, Ukraine’s series of military successes in September appear to have forced the Kremlin’s hand.
Putin has admitted that mistakes have been made in his drive to mobilize hundreds of thousands of Russians to bolster his troops on the front lines. Some 2,400 protesters have been arrested in dozens of cities and there has been an exodus of Russian men streaming across the border.
Kazakhstan alone reported 98,000 arrivals by Tuesday, and there have been long queues on the border with Georgia. From Friday, Finland has announced it will significantly restrict Russians entering for tourism or for onward travel to other EU countries.