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Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to formally sign orders today annexing four territories in the east and south of Ukraine, a move anticipated since occupying Russian forces oversaw referendums over the weekend. The declaration will make the regions part of Russia under Russian law but has been condemned as illegitimate by Ukraine and the West.
The Kremlin reported each area—Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson (see map)—voted to support the move by tallies of 99%, 98%, 93%, and 87%, respectively. Western officials called the results rigged, noting armed troops accompanied election officials to collect ballots door-to-door. Still, analysts say Russia may use the move as a pretext to escalate the conflict as fighting moves into what the Kremlin would likely consider sovereign Russian land.
Separately, NATO joined EU officials in describing damage to the Nord Stream gas pipelines as sabotage—though investigating the alleged attack may prove challenging.