WASHINGTON — Russia appears to be gearing up to annex two regions in eastern Ukraine and possibly a third in the south of the country, a senior US diplomat said Monday, citing “highly credible” reports of Moscow’s plans.

Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said the Kremlin is likely to hold “mock elections” in the Russian-backed separatist areas of Donetsk and Luhansk in mid-May to formally gain control of both.

The ambassador would not say where these messages came from or how he could have made such a prediction.

A similar referendum in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, could follow, he said. The Russian language is dominant in all three areas.

“This is straight out of the Kremlin’s playbook,” Carpenter told State Department reporters on Monday.

He said there was no certainty that Russia would eventually move to annex any of the regions, let alone succeed, but that “this is the planning we see.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia recognized the independence of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic a few days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in late February. Moscow-backed separatists in the regions have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

Mr Putin annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014, just hours after 97 percent of voters there approved secession from Ukraine in a referendum. The vote was criticized as fraudulent and much of the world has since refused to recognize Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.

Mr Carpenter said it was also possible that Russian leaders would try to take over other parts of Ukraine, imposing “puppets and proxies” on local governments and expelling democratically elected officials. He said this appeared to be Moscow’s initial goal in Kiev — a plan that would include installing a new constitution in Ukraine — but that Russian forces had been forced to fall back to the east and south of the country after being defeated. could not take the capital.

Now, he said, Moscow appears to be planning to impose its school curriculum, currency and local leadership in areas where Russian troops are suspected of kidnapping political opponents, educators and journalists, and shutting down internet services to isolate residents from independent sources of information.

Mr Carpenter acknowledged that the OSCE could do little to stop Russia, although he cited efforts by the West and other international allies to harass Moscow with economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation. He said the organization is working to distribute humanitarian aid to Ukrainian people injured in war or driven from their homes since Russia invaded, and helped document war crimes and other human rights violations for future prosecutions.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is expose Russia’s intentions,” said Mr Carpenter, adding that “unfortunately we’ve been more right than wrong in exposing what we think next time going to happen.”

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