The Obama administration denounced as illegal a planned weekend referendum by pro-Russian insurgents pushing for autonomy and independence for portions of eastern Ukraine.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday the referendum set for Sunday would be “bogus” and not recognized by the West.
Last month Moscow supported an independence referendum in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which led to its annexation by Russia. Leaders of the anti-government movement say they plan to hold a referendum on autonomy in the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, although no preparations for the vote have yet been seen.
“We flatly reject this illegal effort to further divide Ukraine,” Kerry told reporters after meeting at the State Department with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. “It’s pursuit will create even more problems in the effort to try to de-escalate the situation.”