President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that elections conducted this month in Russian-held parts of Ukraine marked a step towards their full integration into Russia.
The votes in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions - all partly under Russia's control following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year - were denounced by Kyiv as illegal.
Russia said a year ago that it was annexing the four regions, in an act condemned as unlawful by most countries at the United Nations.
"This is, of course, a significant event, an important step towards the full entry of the new regions into the single legal, state space of our big country,” Putin told a meeting of newly elected governors, referring to the recent elections and describing them as fair.
(Reporting by Reuters; editing by Christina Fincher)