G7 condemns Russia's 'scam' Ukraine referendums

Service members of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic vote during a referendum in Luhansk

BERLIN (Reuters) - The leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrial democracies, condemned , saying it was an attempt by Moscow to create a "phony" pretext for changing the status of Ukrainian sovereign territory.

"We will never recognise these referenda which appear to be step toward Russian annexation and we will never recognise purported annexation if it occurs," they wrote in a joint statement sent by the German government spokesperson.

Russia launched referendums on Friday aimed at annexing four occupied regions of Ukraine, raising the stakes of the seven-month-old war in what Kyiv called a sham that saw residents threatened with punishment if they did not vote.

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Chris Reese)