KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia says it will formally annex occupied parts of Ukraine where it held Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” in which it claimed that residents had voted overwhelmingly to live under Moscow’s rule.
The Ukrainian government and the West have denounced the ballots as illegal, forced and rigged.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend a ceremony on Friday in the Kremlin when four regions of Ukraine will be officially folded into Russia.
Putin’s spokesman says the pro-Moscow administrators of the regions will sign treaties to join Russia during the ceremony at the Kremlin’s St. George’s Hall.
Russian shelling hit several parts of Ukraine on Thursday, as Russian troops appeared to lose more ground around the key northeastern city of Lyman.