NATO on Thursday condemned plans to hold referendums in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, calling them a “sham” that the alliance will not recognize.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the plan to hold so-called 'referenda' on joining the Russian Federation in the Ukrainian regions partly controlled by the Russian military,” the North Atlanta Council, NATO's principle decision-making body, said in a statement.
The referendums were called suddenly at the beginning of this week by pro-Russian officials in occupied regions of Ukraine. They will ask the people of the occupied areas whether they wish to join the Russian Federation.
"Allies do not and will never recognize Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea. Sham referenda in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions of Ukraine have no legitimacy and will be a blatant violation of the UN Charter. NATO Allies will not recognize their illegal and illegitimate annexation,” the council said.
“These lands are Ukraine. We call on all states to reject Russia’s blatant attempts at territorial conquest,” according to the statement.
The council also accused Russia of escalating its "illegal war" by ordering what Russian President Vladimir Putin called a "partial mobilization" of its military.
"We continue to reject Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric," it added, referring to Putin's speech on Wednesday in which he threatened the use of nuclear weapons and warned he was "not bluffing."
"NATO Allies remain resolute in providing political and practical support to Ukraine as it continues to defend itself against Russia’s aggression," the council said.