WATCH: State Department spokesman Ned Price holds briefing as Russia works to annex parts of Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia positioned itself Wednesday to formally annex parts of Ukraine where occupied areas held a Kremlin-orchestrated “referendum” on living under Moscow’s rule that the Ukrainian government and the West denounced as illegal and rigged.

Watch the briefing in the player above.

Armed troops had gone door-to-door with election officials to collect ballots in five days of voting. The suspiciously high margins in favor were characterized as a land grab by an increasingly cornered Russian leadership after embarrassing military losses in Ukraine.

Moscow-installed administrations in the four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine claimed Tuesday night that 93 percent of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported annexation, as did 87 percent in the Kherson region, 98 percent in the Luhansk region and 99 percent in Donetsk.

Pro-Russia officials in the four regions said they would ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to incorporate their provinces into Russia on the basis of announced vote results. Separatist leaders Leonid Pasechnik in Luhansk and Denis Pushilin in Donetsk said they were leaving for Moscow to settle the annexation formalities.

READ MORE: Russia poised to formally annex occupied Ukraine after ‘forced’ vote

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry called the balloting “a propaganda show” and “null and worthless.”

“Forcing people in these territories to fill out some papers at the barrel of a gun is yet another Russian crime in the course of its aggression against Ukraine,” it said.

Western countries also dismissed the balloting as an attempt by Moscow to legitimize its invasion of Ukraine launched on Feb. 24.

“Regardless of Russia’s claims, this remains Ukrainian territory and Ukraine has every right to continue to fight for their full sovereignty,” said White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre.

“In response, we will work with our allies and partners to impose additional economic costs” on Russia and supporters of any annexation, she said.

Separately, the U.S. announced an additional $1.1 billion in aid to Kyiv, with funding for about 18 more advanced rocket systems and other weapons to counter drones that Russia has been using against Ukrainian troops. The latest package brings the total of U.S. aid to Ukraine to nearly $17 billion since the Biden administration took office.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged the EU’s 27 member countries to agree on a new package of sanctions on Russia because of the proposed annexations.

READ MORE: Kremlin-led referendum vote concludes, rising Western tensions

The Kremlin remained unmoved amid the hail of criticism. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that at the very least, Russia intended to drive Ukrainian forces out of the Donetsk region, where Moscow’s troops and separatist forces currently control about 60% of the territory.

In an interview with The Associated Press, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine was determined to reclaim all the territory that Russia has seized during the war. Mykhailo Podolyak said the annexation by Russia would change nothing on the battlefield.

“Our actions depend not so much on what the Russian Federation thinks or wants, but on the military capabilities that Ukraine has,” he said.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington that the U.S. would not object to Ukraine using U.S.-supplied weapons to attack those areas if they are annexed by Russia.

“We have been clear when it comes to certain longer-range systems with our Ukrainian partners that these systems are for use on sovereign Ukrainian territory. If and when this annexation occurs as we expect it will, these areas will remain sovereign Ukrainian territory,” Price said.

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