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LONDON: The lower house of Russia’s parliament approved laws on Monday on annexing four occupied Ukrainian territories into Russia, following hastily organised votes that Ukraine and the West denounced as coercive and illegitimate.

No lawmakers in the State Duma voted against the resolutions, which sought to formally incorporate Ukraine’s Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions into Russia.

“The decision was taken unanimously. There are 89 entities in the Russian Federation,” parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin posted on Telegram, along with a map of Russia including the four regions, as well as Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine without international recognition in 2014.

Putin declares annexation of Ukrainian lands in Kremlin ceremony

Speaking shortly after the votes, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov congratulated representatives from the four regions and said he was confident the upper house of parliament would also approve the measures.

The resolutions had not been expected to face any opposition in either the Duma or the upper house, the Federation Council, which act largely as rubber stamps for Kremlin policy.

Russia began a formal process of annexing the four Ukrainian territories last week, but none is fully under the control of its forces and Ukraine has been making progress in counter-offensives in the south and east.

EU rejects Russia’s ‘illegal annexation’ in Ukraine

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