Western powers prepare UN resolution on Crimea vote

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - Western powers are considering tabling a resolution at the UN Security Council over the upcoming referendum in Crimea even though it will almost certainly be vetoed by Russia, diplomats said on Wednesday.

Crimea is to hold the controversial plebiscite on joining Russia from Ukraine on Sunday, after which the peninsula is expected to be rapidly absorbed into Russian territory.

Ukraine and allies in the West have angrily protested the vote, saying it is illegal under international law while urging Russian President Vladimir Putin not to act on the outcome.

The proposed Security Council resolution would urge respect for Ukraine's sovereignty and territory, while reiterating that the referendum violates the Ukrainian constitution.

Diplomats said the resolution had been drafted in a way which would drive a wedge between China and Russia.

"Russia will veto it regardless," one diplomat said. However, it was hoped China would abstain from voting, isolating Moscow further.

During five Security Council meetings on the Ukraine crisis held so far, China has reiterated the need to respect the territorial integrity of states while staying out of an individual nation's "internal affairs." China has refrained from directly criticizing Russia over its conduct.

When the Security Council ruled on a similar international crisis, between Russia and Georgia in 2008, Beijing abstained.

Western diplomats have been debating whether to seek a resolution for several days.

However it now seems likely Western diplomats will wait to gauge Russia's response to Sunday's referendum before acting, meaning a further UN Security Council meeting is likely on either Sunday night or Monday.

Ukraine's prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk met US President Barack Obama in the White House on Wednesday and is to address the Security Council this week.