At the United Nations, Zelensky rails against Russia for trying to ‘steal’ Ukrainian territory.

With Russia appearing poised to annex parts of eastern and southern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine lashed out at the Kremlin on Tuesday, telling the United Nations Security Council that Moscow was staging “sham” referendums at gunpoint as a prelude to stealing part of his country.

“This is an attempt to steal the territory of another state,” he said, speaking remotely by video and wearing his signature olive green shirt. He called the referendums a reckless breach of international norms and called for the international community to impose sanctions on Russia. “This is an attempt to erase the norms of international law,” he said.

Mr. Zelensky also repeated his castigations of Russia for using what he has called “nuclear blackmail” to destabilize the world and highlighted reports that Russia is disproportionately targeting Crimean Tatars and other Indigenous people in its draft.

Mr. Zelensky addressed the Council as Russian-backed administrators in four regions of Ukraine staged the final day of balloting that residents complained was rife with coercion and intimidation, including armed men at polling stations and pro-Russian propaganda.

The referendums, widely seen as a cynical pretext for Russia to lay claim to portions of Ukraine where they have established at least partial military control, have been condemned by countries around the world as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia tries to reassert his authority over a chaotic war.

At the Security Council meeting, representatives from countries including the United States, Britain, Albania, Ireland, Mexico, Kenya and Brazil criticized the referendums as violations of international law. But attempts to hold Russia accountable at the Security Council have been mostly symbolic; Russia’s permanent seat on the Council gives it veto power, leaving nations and allied blocs to come up with their own policies to punish Moscow.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called on member states not to recognize the results of the referendums, calling Mr. Putin’s strategy part of a “well-worn Kremlin playbook.”

“The United States will never recognize any territory Russia attempts to seize or allegedly annex as anything other than part of Ukraine,” she said.

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, accused Ukraine of engaging in political theater during the recent U.N. meetings, and trying to foment anti-Russian sentiment. Mr. Zelensky’s remote addresses, he said, are “P.R. stunts.”