VIEWERS of the BBC’s long-running panel show Have I Got News For You have raised objections to a “tasteless crack” at Nicola Sturgeon.

During the broadcast on Friday evening, host Alexander Armstrong read out a joke which suggested the Scottish First Minister supported Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine.

War has been waged in Europe after Russia’s invasion in February of this year, with Putin annexing four occupied Ukrainian regions under the guise of sham referendums.

The Kremlin claimed that 93% of votes cast in Zaporizhzhia were in favour of joining the Russian Federation, as were 87% in Kherson, 98% in Luhansk and 99% in Donetsk.

READ MORE: 'That's not how it works at all': Stephen Kerr's attack on Scots voting system debunked

The ballots – which mirrored the tactic used to annex the Crimea in 2014 – have been widely dismissed as illegitimate.

In a segment on the votes in Friday’s edition of Have I Got News For You (HIGNFY), host Armstrong said: “This is Putin’s illegitimate land-grab through a series of dodgy referendums in Ukraine.

“Germany’s Olaf Scholz called them ‘a sham’. France’s Emmanuel Macron called them ‘a tragic parody’.

“And Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon called them ‘a perfectly legitimate attempt to break free from the shackles of an oppressive regime’.”

The joke, which suggested that Sturgeon supported Putin’s annexation of Ukrainian soil, was labelled “tasteless” and “poor” by viewers.

Twitter user Jim Gibson wrote: “Just watched @XanderArmstrong make a tasteless crack about @NicolaSturgeon approving of Putin's annexation of four regions of Ukraine.

“It was jarring and worthy of an apology. It wasn't funny.”

Karen Robertson hit out at the "poor joke", writing: “Can’t believe #HIGNFY implied @NicolaSturgeon and SNP’s election as Scottish Government is as illegitimate as Putin’s Ukrainian ‘elections’ are."

She added: “Just be clear, I’m more than happy for #HIGNFY to mock Sturgeon, Blackford etc but comparing the campaign for Scottish independence to a military land grab and sham elections is unreasonable in the extreme."

“I thought that was a shocking, racist and defamatory 'joke'. Sad that @XanderArmstrong wasn't clever enough to refuse to say it,” another user added.

The Scottish First Minister has been banned from Russia for her public support of Ukraine following the Kremlin’s illegal invasion.

Following the ban, Sturgeon said: "Putin is a war criminal and I will not shy away from condemning him and his regime."

The BBC has been approached for comment.