Russia confirmed on Thursday it will formally annex parts of Ukraine where occupied areas held "referendums" on living under Moscow's rule that the Ukrainian government and the West denounced as illegal and rigged.

Iran PressEurope: Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend a ceremony on Friday 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 would 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 overwhelmingly supported their sites to become part of Russia formally.

The United States and its Western allies have condemned the votes as a "sham" and vowed never to recognize their results.

On Thursday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock joined other Western officials in denouncing the votes.

"Under threats and sometimes even (at) gunpoint people are being taken out of their homes or workplaces to vote in glass ballot boxes," she said at a conference in Berlin.

"This is the opposite of free and fair elections," Baerbock said.

"And this is the opposite of peace. It's dictated peace. As long as this Russian diktat prevails in the occupied territories of Ukraine, no citizen is safe. No citizen is free."

Armed troops had gone door-to-door with election officials to collect ballots within five days of voting.

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

Ukraine 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 counteroffensive 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.


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