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Putin says votes in Russian-held parts of Ukraine mark step towards 'full entry' into Russia

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.