Ukraine called on EU and NATO countries Wednesday to hit Russia with more sanctions and send more weapons to the frontline after Kremlin proxies held "sham" annexation votes in four occupied Ukrainian regions.
The appeal for more weapons from Kyiv came despite repeated warnings from Moscow that it could use its nuclear arsenal to defend the territories from a Ukrainian counter-offensive that has wrested back swathes of territory this month already.
Kyiv's closest backers within the NATO military alliance and the European Union have all denounced the move and said they would not recognise any outcome. On Wednesday, Ukraine urged them to take concrete steps.
The elections represent a turning point in the seven-month invasion as Russian officials in Moscow suggest that they could use nuclear weapons and Vladimir Putin rushed thousands of Russian military draftees to cement Kremlin's authority in the territories.
Taken together, the four territories -- Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south; Donetsk and Lugansk in the east -- create a crucial land corridor between Russia and the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.
Despite those gains -- particularly in the north east -- Russian forces have battered the second-largest city of Kharkiv and overnight a salvo of missiles hit a railway yard, knocking out power to more than 18,000 households.
"These votes are not legitimate. We believe in our forces. In the end, we'll win," said Denys Kochkov, a 30-year-old employee at the rail yard.
The Kremlin-backed heads of both the Donetsk and Lugansk regions -- which have partially been controlled by separatists since 2014 -- indicated Wednesday morning they would travel to Moscow to appeal to authorities to formally begin the annexation.
And Vladimir Saldo the Russian-installed head of the Kherson region -- where Ukrainian forces have been making incremental gains -- said residents there had "voted for joining Russia".
Lawmakers are expected to vote hastily to annex the territories after the results are announced and Russian news agencies have said Putin could sign legislation formalising the land grab this week.
The move has sparked panic, protests and a exodus among military-aged Russian men for neighbouring countries like Georgia and Kazakhstan.
Nikita, a 25-year-old reservist had tears in his eyes as he held hands with his 22-year-old fiancé as he said goodbye.
"I don't what to say. I am in shock," Alina said, her gaze locked on Nikita.