WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- The United States and NATO have denounced the recent elections held in Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula as illegitimate because they occurred under Russian occupation.
Elections in Crimea were held on Sunday for the first time since it was (illegally) annexed by Russia, and coincided with local elections in Russia. Crimean residents cast their votes for regional Parliament and the Sevastopol city council.
"The United States does not recognize the legitimacy of the so-called regional and local elections in Crimea on September 14th and will not acknowledge their outcome," State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said Monday at the daily press briefing.
"Our position on Crimea remains clear: The peninsula remains an integral part of Ukraine... We call on Russia to return Crimea to its rightful status as part of Ukraine."
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reiterated NATO's position that it will not recognize Russia's "illegal and illegitimate 'annexation' of Crimea," and "does not recognize the reported elections held on 14 September in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Ukraine."
"We stand united in our support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders."