Ukraine and other nations condemned Russian-backed elections in separatist regions of eastern Ukraine as illegitimate. Photo by Alexander Ermochenko/EPA
Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Ukraine, the United States and the European Union condemned elections held in Russian-backed regions of eastern Ukraine as illegitimate.
Residents of the so-called people's republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, which separated from Ukraine in 2014 voted to elect new leaders Sunday in elections that the Ukraine's government described as illegal.
"The current attempt by Russia to justify, organize and then legitimize a fake 'voting' process in the occupied Donbas represents a flagrant violation of norms and principles of international law and Ukrainian legislation and constitutes a blatant breach of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.
Denis Pushilin, 37, was elected as the leader of Donetsk with 61 percent of the vote and Leonid Pasechnik was elected leader of Luhansk with 68 percent of the vote.
Potential competitors for the two Russian-backed candidates were prevented from running and voters were enticed to head to the polls with raffles promising concert tickets and mobile phone credit as well as trucks selling discounted produce.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the European Union wouldn't recognize the results of the elections and U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington also considered the elections illegitimate.
"The United States joins our European Allies and partners in condemning the November 11 sham 'elections' in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine," Nauert said.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint statement saying the vote was "illegal and illegitimate" and the "so-called elections undermine the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine."
Britain and other countries also said the elections violated the 2015 Minsk peace agreement, which called for local elections to be held under Ukrainian law and be monitored by Europe's Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Russia and the two separatist regions argued Sunday's votes didn't fit the definition of a local election outlined in the Minsk agreement and placed blame on Ukraine for not passing changes to its Constitution to provide the regions' autonomy.