President Vladimir Putin has long had designs on eastern Ukraine. And now, he has pushed ahead with plans to absorb some of that land into Russia. He has signed decrees paving the way for the regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be annexed.
Putin met online Thursday with the heads of intelligence services from former countries in the Soviet bloc. He told them what he called the "collective West" is sticking to the past and pursuing a "policy of dictatorship."
He added, "Unipolar hegemony is collapsing relentlessly. It's an objective reality the West doesn't want to accept."
Putin's proxies in four regions claim they won overwhelming majorities in referendums on joining Russia. He is planning on Friday to announce they are part of his country.
Organizers have planned a rally in Red Square. But Ukrainian leaders dismissed the celebration as a "Kremlin freak show."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says annexation would be a "dangerous escalation."
He added, "It is high time to step back from the brink. Now, more than ever, we must work together to end this devastating and senseless war."
Russia is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Guterres said Russian leaders share a particular responsibility to respect the UN charter.