UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia on Saturday vetoed a U.N. Security Council draft resolution that declares a planned referendum on the status of Ukraine's Crimea region "can have no validity" and urges nations and international organisations not to recognise it.
The Russian veto of the draft resolution, drawn up by the United States, was expected. Moscow, which has sent military forces to the Crimea, is backing Sunday's referendum, which would transfer control of the region from Ukraine to Russia.
The brief resolution noted 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 recognise any alteration of the status of Crimea on the basis of this referendum."
Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters before the council met, "No surprises at this vote."
Russia is one of the Security Council's five permanent, veto-holding members.
(Reporting by Mirjam Donath; Editing by Doina Chiacu)