European Union leaders condemned Russia's "illegal" annexation of Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions and vowed that they will "never recognise" these areas.
The European Council, a body comprised of the leaders of the European Union's 27 member states, accused the Kremlin of putting global security at risk, according to a statement released by the European Council.
"We firmly reject and unequivocally condemn the illegal annexation by Russia of Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. By wilfully undermining the rules-based international order and blatantly violating the fundamental rights of Ukraine to independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, core principles as enshrined in the UN Charter and international law, Russia is putting global security at risk," the statement reads.
According to the statement, the member countries said that they will never recognise the illegal 'referenda' that Russia has engineered as a pretext for this further violation of Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, nor their falsified and illegal results.
The member countries called the decision null and void and said that it cannot produce any legal effect whatsoever. "Crimea, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk are Ukraine. We call on all States and international organisations to unequivocally reject this illegal annexation," the statement added.
In the face of Russia's war of aggression as well as Moscow's latest escalation, the European Union stands resolutely with Ukraine and its people.
"We are unwavering in our support of Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty. Ukraine is exercising its legitimate right to defend itself against Russian aggression to regain full control of its territory and has the right to liberate occupied territories within its internationally recognised borders," the statement reads.
"The nuclear threats made by the Kremlin, the military mobilisation and the strategy of seeking to falsely present Ukraine's territory as Russia's and purporting that the war may now be taking place on Russia's territory will not shake our resolve," the statement added.
The European Council vowed that they will strengthen the restrictive measures countering Russia's illegal actions. They will further increase pressure on Russia to end its war of aggression.
EU reiterated that they firmly stand with Ukraine and will continue to provide strong economic, military, social and financial support to Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Earlier today, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally announced the annexation of four regions - Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia and claimed that "this is the will of millions of people.
"There are four new regions of Russia," Putin said in a lengthy speech declaring the annexation of Ukrainian territories in the St George's Hall at a Kremlin ceremony. The speech was filled with highly critical rhetoric about Ukraine and its Western allies, reported Al Jazeera.
Putin said the residents in the four annexed regions will now be Russia's "citizens forever".
Speaking further, Putin claimed that the people in eastern Ukraine made up of Donetsk and Luhansk - had been "victims of inhumane terrorist attacks conducted by the Kyiv regime".
He also called the result of the referendum "the will of millions of people."
In a major move by Russia, President Putin signed a decree recognizing the so-called "independence" of the Ukrainian regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
Moreover, the UN Security Council is set to vote Friday on a resolution that would seek to condemn Russia for its referenda in four regions under Russian control but claimed by Ukraine, media reports said. (ANI)