Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed decrees paving the way for the Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which were captured by Russia, to be formally annexed into Russia, Reuters reported.
The decrees, made public by the Kremlin, said Putin had recognized the two regions as independent territories.
This is an intermediary step needed before Putin can go ahead with plans to announce on Friday that the regions are part of Russia.
Earlier on Thursday, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that Russia on Friday will officially annex four parts of Ukraine which it currently occupies.
“Tomorrow in the Georgian Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace at 3:00 pm. (1200 GMT) a signing ceremony will take place on the incorporation of the new territories into Russia,” Peskov said.
In addition to Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, the occupied regions of Ukraine which are to be annexed to Russia are Luhansk and Donetsk.
The annexation announcement follows the holding of referendums earlier this week on whether residents of the affected areas wished to remain part of Ukraine or become part of Russia.
Moscow has claimed that the residents overwhelmingly voted to be part of Russia, though Western countries do not recognize the legitimacy of the referendums.
Israel's Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday that Israel would not recognize the results of referendums held in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.
“Israel recognizes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and will not recognize the results of referendums in the eastern districts of Ukraine,” the Foreign Ministry said.