Russian President Vladimir Putin at a ceremony Friday announced the annexation of four Ukrainian regions.
Speaking at St George’s Hall of the Kremlin, with hundreds of dignitaries present, Putin said, “This is the will of millions of people.”
Putin’s Ukrainian counterpart said Putin would have to be stopped if Russia was to avoid the most damaging consequences of the war.
Russia’s annexation of the Russian-occupied areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia has been widely condemned in the West.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres too warned against Putin’s move, and said the planned annexations were a “dangerous escalation” and jeopardise prospects for peace.
Meanwhile, Zaporizhzhia regional governor said that a convoy of vehicles carrying Ukrainian civilians was hit during a Russian missile strike on Friday near the southern city.
The strike killed 23 people and wounded 28 in a humanitarian convoy, reported Associated Press, quoting an official.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a Thursday evening address promised a strong response to the annexations and summoned his defence and security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Friday where “fundamental decisions” will be taken, an official said.
The ceremony took place three days after the completion of hastily staged referendums in which Moscow’s proxies in the occupied regions claimed majorities of up to 99% in favour of joining Russia.
Ukraine and Western governments described those votes as bogus, illegitimate and conducted at gunpoint.
In a speech repeatedly interrupted by applause, Putin declared that Russia had four new regions.
He urged Ukraine to cease military action and return to the negotiating table. Kyiv has vowed to recapture all the lands seized by Russia and said that Russia’s decision to annex the territories had destroyed any prospect of talks. Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of four areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia.