Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday it was up to the people living in separatist-controlled areas of Ukraine if they wanted to hold referendums on joining Russia.

"From the very beginning ... we've been saying that the peoples of the respective territories should decide their fate," Lavrov said on state TV when asked about several coordinated moves by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine on Tuesday to stage votes on joining Russia. (Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Andrew Heavens)