Moscow may announce one or more “illegal” referendums in occupied areas as early as this week in a bid to justify an annexation of Ukrainian territory, White House spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday.
"We have information that Russia is continuing to prepare a mock referendum” in Kherson, Zaporizhia, the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, and in Kharkiv, said Kirby, who is a spokesman for national security matters.
“The Russian administration has given instructions to prepare for these referendums,” he added. “Indeed, we expect a Russian announcement about the first referendum simulations before the end of the week.”
“The US and the international community have been very clear: any attempt to bring any Ukrainian territory under (Russian) control will be considered illegal,” he warned.
The US expects Russia to manipulate the results of the referendums to make it look as if the Ukrainian people want to join Russia. “Quite simply, it’s wrong,” Kirby said.
He referred to polls in recent months among the Ukrainian population in areas controlled by Kyiv that showed that more than 90 percent of Ukrainians do not want to belong to Russia.
President Joe Biden, who announced a new tranche of military aid worth $3 billion for Ukraine on Wednesday, is scheduled to have a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday.