The United States called the November 11 elections in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine a “sham,” joining the European Union in voicing its condemnation of the illegal action.

The U.S. said the elections were Moscow’s attempt to “institutionalize its Donbas proxies,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a November 12 statement, referring to regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine’s eastern provinces that Russia controls.

Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine has led to the deaths of thousands of people and the destruction of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals since the conflict began in 2014.

“If Russia calculated the November 11 illegal ‘elections’ would lead to international respect for its proxies, the international reaction proves it was mistaken,” Nauert said.

“These entities have no place within the Minsk agreements or within Ukraine’s constitutional government, and they should be dismantled along with the illegal armed formations,” she said.

The Minsk agreements, signed by Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, aim to curtail hostilities in the region. Under that pact, any elections in Ukraine must be based “on the Law of Ukraine” as well as monitored by appropriate international authorities and in accordance with agreed-upon standards.

“The United States and the European Union have spoken with one voice against [the November 11] violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will continue to impose Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia until Moscow fully implements the Minsk agreements and returns control of Crimea to Ukraine,” Nauert said.