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Ukraine’s president says his country is submitting an “accelerated” application to join the NATO military alliance.

The comment Friday by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy came just after Russia said it would annex four region of Ukraine it seized amid its war and held gunpoint referendums viewed as illegitimate by the international community.

Zelenskyy said: “We are taking our decisive step by signing Ukraine’s application for accelerated accession to NATO.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties Friday to annex parts of Ukraine in defiance of international law, saying Moscow would protect the newly incorporated regions by “all available means.”

He also urged Ukraine to sit down for peace talks but immediately insisted he won’t discuss handing them back, opening a new escalatory phase of his seven-month invasion of the country.

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