Ukraine parliament appeals to UN over Crimea

KIEV (REUTERS) - Ukraine's parliament appealed on Thursday to the United Nations (UN) to discuss the occupation by Russian forces of its Crimea peninsula and said it reserved the right to ask individual countries for help in resolving the issue.

In a debate hours before Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk was to address the Security Council in New York, some members called for a UN peacekeeping force, though the resolution that was passed did not specify that form of assistance.

In a second vote, the chamber endorsed a document confirming that Ukraine sought deeper integration with the European Union.

A total of 250 members in the 450-seat assembly, which last month removed a Moscow-backed president, endorsed the appeal to the UN, citing the "flagrant violation by the Russian Federation of the fundamental principles of international law".

Ukraine, the appeal said, reserved the right to ask "any state or regional system of collective security for help in restoring its sovereignty".

"Parliament must ask the UN to bring in a peacekeeping contingent," Mr Oles Doniy, an independent member allied with parties favouring integration with Europe, told the chamber. "We cannot compete with Russia on our own."

But with Crimea now firmly in Moscow's hands for more than a week ahead of a referendum this Sunday on joining Russia, the parliament split along political lines.

Only two members of ousted president Viktor Yanukovich's Party of Regions voted in favour while others abstained, saying they wanted first to see the outcome of Sunday's plebiscite in Crimea. Communists also abstained.

The appeal made no specific reference to the UN Security Council. Pro-European member Borys Tarasyuk, a former foreign minister, said such a move would be pointless as Russia enjoyed veto power in the 15-member Council.

"All attempts to appeal to Russia have produced no results," Mr Tarasyuk told the chamber.

"I therefore believe an appeal to the UN is justified so that a special session of the UN General Assembly can be held.

Unfortunately, Russia will use its veto in the Security Council."

Prime Minister Yatseniuk received support for Ukraine's position during talks on Wednesday in Washington with US President Barack Obama. He is to take part in a session of the UN Security Council on Thursday.

Parliament also approved a resolution "confirming Ukraine's policy of integration with the European Union".

The resolution authorised Mr Yatseniuk to "conclude as quickly as possible from the Ukrainian side an association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union".

Three months of crisis gripping Ukraine, culminating in Mr Yanukovich's removal, were triggered by Mr Yanukovich's decision to abandon plans to sign such an accord with the EU. Officials in the EU have said the pact can be revived.

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