Defying West, Russia says it will annex four occupied Ukraine regions Friday

MOSCOW, Russia — Moscow will formally annex four Russia-occupied regions of Ukraine at a Kremlin ceremony on Friday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said Thursday.

“Tomorrow in the Georgian Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace at 3 pm. (1200 GMT) a signing ceremony will take place on the incorporation of the new territories into Russia,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

He added that the Russian leader will make a major speech at the event.

Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions are occupied by the Russian army, which Putin sent over the border in February.

Moscow organized what it called referendums in the four regions that it controls, with Kremlin-installed officials saying this week residents backed joining Russia.

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