In violation of international law, Putin declares the annexation of certain regions of Ukraine

On Friday, President Vladimir Putin declared that Russia will annex nearly a fifth of Ukraine and that the millions of residents there would become citizens of Russia "forever."

Putin's statement, which was made in a formal speech on Friday at the lavish St. George's Hall in the Kremlin, comes after phoney referendums that were universally denounced as "shams" by Ukraine and Western countries.

The annexations might be the beginning of a risky new stage in Russia's offensive against Ukraine. In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces have successfully

driven Russian soldiers out of some of Donetsk, in part because of the cutting-edge weapons that the US and other allies have delivered.