Vladimir Putin is poised for a signing ceremony in the Kremlin on Friday to complete his Ukrainian land grab. Meanwhile the Russian President is also preparing for a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan.
Russian-backed officials in four regions of Ukraine said referendums showed an overwhelming majority of their populations had voted to join Russia in votes slammed by Ukraine and the West as “shams”.
Putin will also give a major speech on Friday following the signing ceremony in the Kremlin and will meet with Moscow-appointed administrators of the Ukrainian regions, the Kremlin said.
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the ceremony would take place at 3pm (12pm GMT) “on agreements on the accession of new territories into the Russian Federation.”
Agreements will be signed “with all four territories that held referendums and made corresponding requests to the Russian side,” Peskov added.
Putin’s decision to incorporate the regions into Russia means Moscow will annex vast areas across eastern and southern Ukraine, representing around 15 percent of Ukraine’s total territory.
A stage with giant video screens has been set up on Moscow’s Red Square, with billboards proclaiming “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson – Russia!” – For Russia to formally annex the territories, some sort of treaty will be signed and then ratified by the Russian parliament, which is controlled by Putin allies.
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Western nations have been growing concerned over increased economic ties between Turkey and Russia, diplomats say, particularly after several meetings between Mr Erdogan and Putin.
Separately, Putin today signed a decree authorising the government to ban some Western trucks from transiting across Russian territory.
The ban, which applies to vehicles carrying goods, comes into force immediately and applies to countries which have applied similar restrictions against Russia.
European Union countries are among those which have introduced restrictions on the entry of Russian trucks.
Russia complained in April that the European Union had closed its borders to some freight vehicles registered in Russia and Belarus due to sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.
The decree said the measures had been introduced in response to “unfriendly” restrictions by foreign states against Russian citizens and entities.
(More to follow)