MOSCOW (AA) - Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend a ceremony Friday to formally annex Ukraine's four breakaway regions into Russia.
The ceremony will take place at the Kremlin at 3 p.m. local time (1200GMT), and agreements will be signed with the territories which voted to join Russia in controversial referendums held over five days, from Sept. 23 through Sept. 27.
Putin says Moscow's "special military operation" in Ukraine, which began in February, was necessary to thwart military risks posed by Ukraine's rapprochement with NATO.
But Russia may also benefit economically from incorporating the new territories – Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia – into the country.
The restoration of war-ravaged territories demands huge investment, but it is believed that the returns may be even greater.
The four regions amount to more than 90,000 square kilometers (34,749 square miles,) or nearly 15% of Ukraine’s total area.
Until 2014, the Donetsk region was Ukraine’s industrial center, accounting for 20% of the country’s industrial production. It is rich in mineral resources, having the fourth-largest coal field in Europe.
The Luhansk region is an important transport hub and is known for its metallurgy, machinery and agricultural industries. It has metallurgical enterprises, chemical and pharmaceutical plants and several coal mines.
The Zaporizhzhia region, meanwhile, is the center of energy supply and produces 25% of Ukraine’s electricity.
Three powerful energy producers are located in the southeastern region – the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest nuclear facility in Europe, the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station and the Botievo wind farm.
Zaporizhzhia also has a number of large industrial and mechanical engineering facilities.
The Kherson port region specializes in shipbuilding and is known for its resorts and agriculture.
Besides, the entire Azov Sea will also become a part of Russia.
Russia, which faces a population decline, may also improve its demographic situation as nearly 9 million people live in the four Ukrainian regions.
The country's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said over 98% of people living in the Ukrainian regions supported accession to Russia.
The referendums have been condemned by the international community, with European nations and the US calling them "sham" and that they will not be recognized.