The White House said Monday the U.S. will not recognize the results of weekend autonomy referenda in two regions of eastern Ukraine, blasting the votes as "illegal under Ukrainian law."
Press secretary Jay Carney said the referenda were "a transparent attempt to create further division and disorder," and noted media reports documenting carousel voting, premarked ballots, children casting votes and the announcement of results before ballots could be counted.
The White House spokesman called the actions "disappointing" and said it "suggests that there has not been a significant change in attitude by Russia towards the efforts by separatists in Ukraine to breed chaos and to prevent the effective carrying out of national elections."
"The focus of the international community, including Russia, should be on supporting the Ukraine government's efforts to hold a presidential election on May 25," Carney said.
Earlier Monday, the Kremlin said in a statement obtained by The Wall Street Journal that it "respected" the vote and called on the government in Kiev to enter into negotiations with separatists.
Moscow said it hoped "that the practical implementation of the outcome of the referendums will be carried out in a civilized manner without any recurrence of violence, through dialogue between representatives of Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk."
Separatist leaders, meanwhile, have asked Russia to annex the regions that voted for greater autonomy. Denis Pushilin, a separatist leader in the Donetsk region, said Moscow should do so “based on the will of the people and on the restoration of historic justice," according to the Financial Times.
“The people of Donetsk have always been part of the Russian world, regardless of their ethnic affiliation,” he said. “For us, the history of Russia is our history.”