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Putin presided over an annexation ceremony for 4 Ukrainian districts partially captured by Russian soldiers on Friday, bringing his seven-month conflict to a new, uncertain phase.

In front of throngs of delegates in the Kremlin’s St. George’s Hall, Putin said, “This is the wish of millions of people.”

The event took place 3 days after Moscow’s proxies in the seized territories claimed majority votes of up to 99 percent in favor of rejoining Russia in hurriedly organized so-called referendums.

Although the elections were just announced 10 days ago, Ukraine and Western countries have already declared them to be fraudulent and hence invalid.

Kyiv has called the annexation ceremony a “Kremlin freak show,” a sentiment shared by Washington and the UN’s top official.

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