KYIV: Russian President Vladimir Putin has recognised the independence of two more Ukrainian regions, a precursor to their annexation by Russia.
Putin issued decrees early Friday recognising the independence of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. He took similar steps in February regarding Luhansk and Donetsk and earlier for Crimea.
Russia's plan to annex more of Ukraine on Friday is an escalation of the seven-month war and is expected to isolate the Kremlin further, draw more international punishment and bring Ukraine extra military, political and economic support.
The annexation - and planned celebratory concerts and rallies in Moscow and the occupied territories - would come just days after voters supposedly approved independence in Moscow-managed “referendums.” Ukrainian and Western officials have denounced the votes as illegal, forced and rigged.