2014-03-02 06:01 AM
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. Security Council began holding an open meeting Saturday afternoon on the growing crisis in Ukraine.
After meeting behind closed doors, the council agreed to hold the open, televised meeting despite objections from permanent member Russia. Ukraine has accused Russia of "a military invasion and occupation" of strategic points in the Crimean peninsula.
Ukraine has asked the other four permanent council members -- the U.S., Britain, France and China -- for help in stopping Russia's "aggression."
Russia's parliament earlier Saturday approved President Vladimir Putin's request to authorize the use of the Russian military to protect its interests in Ukraine.
Ukraine's U.N. ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, said Russia has rejected Ukraine's proposal to hold immediate bilateral consultations.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier Saturday that he is "gravely concerned about the deterioration of the situation" in Ukraine. He spoke later by telephone with Putin.
A Ban spokesman delivered the statement Saturday afternoon as members of the Security Council met in an emergency closed-door session for the second straight day on the rapidly developing events in Ukraine's Crimea region.
The Security Council decided to hold the open meeting after struggling behind closed doors to reach agreement on how to meet. Some members wanted open, or public consultations, on Ukraine, which Russia initially opposed.
Ban's statement called for "full respect for and preservation of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine" and demanded the "immediate restoration of calm and direct dialogue between all concerned."
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the meeting is to determine "what justification Russia claims to have" for its de facto military takeover of the strategic Crimea region.
As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia has veto power and can block the U.N.'s most powerful body from adopting any resolution criticizing or sanctioning Moscow.
Outside the council chamber, Ukraine's U.N. ambassador called on countries to do everything possible to stop Russia's "aggression."
"The Russian Federation brutally violated the basic principles of the Charter of the United Nations," Sergeyev told reporters..
During a break, an exasperated Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters, "We are ready for serious discussions."
Ban was flying to Geneva on Saturday where he planned to meet the following day with his special envoy Robert Serry, the Netherlands' first ambassador to Ukraine.
After Friday's closed-door Security Council consultations, Ban asked Serry to go to Crimea as part of a fact-finding mission. However, after consulting with authorities in the autonomous region, Serry decided that a visit to Crimea was not possible and headed to Geneva.