Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has strongly condemned Russia for moving ahead with plans to hold referendums in parts of Ukraine that it controls.
Pro-Russian separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south, plan to hold votes on joining Russia starting Friday through Tuesday.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is deputy chairman of the nation's security council, said on social media on Wednesday that the regions "will be accepted into Russia" if the referendums are held.
Zelenskyy said in a video message on Thursday that "the farce with the preparation of sham referenda in the occupied territory demonstrates what happened in 2014 in Crimea and Donbas."
In an online interview with NHK on Thursday, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai indicated that the referendums were just a pretense. He said Russian forces had fired at protestors opposed to their occupation. He also said busloads of people were brought in posing as residents to welcome Russian forces.