Decrees signed by President Putin designating Ukrainian regions as independent territories are an intermediate step before the areas are formally incorporated into Russia.
Russian President Putin has signed decrees recognising the occupied Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as independent territories.
Putin's decrees signed late on Thursday are an intermediate step before the two regions are formally incorporated into Russia.
"I order the recognition of the state sovereignty and independence" of the regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, located in southern Ukraine, Putin said in the decrees, as Russia prepares to formalise the annexation of the two regions, along with Donetsk and Luhansk on Friday.
Putin said that the decrees will take immediate effect.
He has threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend the territories.
Putin signs executive decrees recognizing Ukraine's Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions as independent territories, paving the way for tomorrow's annexations. pic.twitter.com/u8uVyP65bs— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) September 29, 2022
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters the annexation of the four regions would be formalised at a ceremony in which Putin would deliver a "major" speech.
Peskov said the regions' pro-Moscow administrators would sign treaties to join Russia in the Kremlin's ornate St. George's Hall.
In an apparent response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called an emergency meeting on Friday of his National Security and Defense Council.
US President Joe Biden said that "the United States will never, never, never" recognise Russia's claims on Ukraine's sovereign territory.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also rejected the annexation plans, condemning them as "a dangerous escalation".
The four territories create a crucial land corridor between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014.
Together, all five make up around 20 percent of Ukraine, whose forces in recent weeks have been clawing back ground.