Western nations have condemned Moscow’s plans to hold urgent so-called referendums in parts of Ukraine that are currently under Russian control.
The votes have been called by Russian-backed officials in four Ukrainian regions to ask whether they should become part of Russia and Ukraine.
The US, Germany and France have said they would never recognise the results of such “sham” ballots.
The Nato military alliance said the plans spelt an escalation in the war.
Plans to run polls for five days, starting on Friday, have been announced in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk – as well as Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south.
The quartet represent around 15% of Ukrainian territory – or an area the size of Hungary, according to Reuters news agency.
The suggestion that legitimate and fair polls could be run in the middle of a war were immediately scorned by the West.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz blasted the Russian plans for “sham” votes, while French President Emmanuel Macron labelled them a “parody” of democracy.
“If the Donbas referendum idea wasn’t so tragic it would be funny,” Mr Macron told reporters in New York, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the US would never recognise the votes, calling them “an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Any referendum planned by invading forces contravenes international law and will have no legal force, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement.
Sham referendums have no legitimacy & do not change the nature of #Russia’s war of aggression against #Ukraine. This is a further escalation in Putin’s war. The international community must condemn this blatant violation of international law & step up support for Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/NdcN3tO6Sy
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) September 20, 2022