Separatist leaders join other guests in Moscow for Putin’s annexation ceremony

Guests have arrived in Moscow ahead of an annexation ceremony hosted by President Vladimir Putin on Friday, with attendees including Russian-backed leaders from four occupied Ukrainian territories.

Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the Russian-backed administration in occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia shared an image of himself alongside Vladimir Saldo, his counterpart in Kherson, Denis Pushilin, from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, and Leonid Pasechnik from the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic.

Russian parliament deputies and government ministers are among the other guests, according to Russian state channel Russia 24.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin are in attendance.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the chair of Russia’s Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko, as well as Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Kremlin leader of Russia’s Chechnya region have also arrived.

Tatyana Golikova, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation, and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who currently serves as deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council, are also there.

Members of the Russian Orthodox Church are at the event, according to the Russia 24 video.

The ceremony follows so-called referendums held by Russian-backed officials in eastern and southern Ukraine on joining Russia. The votes are illegal under international law and have been dismissed by Ukraine and Western nations as “a sham.”

Putin will deliver a speech and meet with Russian-backed leaders of the four occupied regions on the sidelines of the ceremony, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

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