DONETSK, Ukraine, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine on Sunday moved forward with elections despite some foreign leaders calling them illegitimate.
Residents went to the polls in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic, both with the backing of Moscow.
Each is choosing new presidents and parliaments amid ongoing fighting in the rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine.
NATO officials, along with those in Kiev, have condemned the elections, calling them illegitimate.
"The planned 'elections' organized by self-appointed and armed rebel groups in parts of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions on Sunday undermine efforts towards a resolution of the conflict," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the persistent threat of violence invalidates the elections.
"A just society can be built only where there is the rule of law, when there are fair elections, unlike elections -- pseudo-elections -- that terrorists and bandits are planning to hold on occupied territories," he said. "On November 2, under the barrels of guns, they want to demonstrate a fake expression of will."
Last week, U.S. President Obama urged Russia to support "legitimate local elections on December 7, in keeping with the agreement that Russia and separatist representatives signed in Minsk, Belarus, on September 5, 2014."