Russian weapons showing 'great effectiveness' - Putin

STORY: The Russian president told the gathering that Russian weapons were showing great effectiveness in Ukraine and that the country needed to enhance its arms production capacity.

Also on Tuesday, Russia gave support to plans by separatists which it backs in Ukraine to hold referendums paving the way for the annexation of swathes of additional territory, a direct challenge to the West that could sharply escalate the conflict.

After nearly seven months of war, including a critical battlefield defeat in northeastern Ukraine, Putin is pondering his next steps.