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Published: Saturday March 15, 2014 MYT 5:00:02 AM
Updated: Saturday March 15, 2014 MYT 5:01:05 AM

Draft U.N. resolution declares Crimea referendum invalid

(Reuters) - A draft U.N. Security Council resolution declares that Sunday's planned referendum on Crimea's status "can have no validity" and urges nations and international organisations not to recognise it, according to a copy obtained by Reuters.

The draft resolution, drawn up by the United States, is due to be voted on Saturday, and is almost certain to be vetoed by Russia. Moscow, which has sent military forces to the Crimea, is backing the referendum, which would transfer control of the region from Ukraine to Russia.

The brief resolution notes that the referendum was not backed by the Ukrainian government in Kiev.

"This referendum can have no validity, and cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of Crimea," it states. It calls on "all States, international organisations and specialised agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of Crimea on the basis of this referendum."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov was quoted as saying on Friday that the resolution is "unacceptable."

"The main thing is that this draft resolution contains a call to reject the results of the referendum in Crimea. For this reason, naturally, such a resolution is unacceptable for us," Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Gatilov as saying.

Russia is one of the Security Council's five permanent, veto-holding members.

Several Western diplomats said their hope was that China, which has joined Russia in vetoing three council resolutions on Syria since 2011, this time would distance itself from Moscow and abstain. That would further isolate Russia.

China has voiced support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity during Security Council sessions on the crisis, although diplomats said it was not entirely certain whether Beijing would break from Russia on Ukraine.

Russia, which has close historical ties to Ukraine and especially to Crimea, began seizing the region in late February, following the February 22 ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.

Talks in London between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the crisis made no progress on Friday, each side said.

The European Union and United States are expected on Monday to impose sanctions on Russian military and political figures for their actions in Ukraine

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau, writing By Warren Strobel; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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