U.N. Security Council to hold emergency meeting on Ukraine crisis

Louis Charbonneau

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council will hold a closed-door emergency session on the escalating crisis in Ukraine on Friday at the request of the new Kiev government, which warned that the situation in Crimea threatened Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Armed men took control of two airports in Ukraine's autonomous Crimea region earlier on Friday in what the country's leadership described as an invasion and occupation by Russian forces. Russia denied involvement in the airport seizures.

"Due to the deterioration of the situation in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, Ukraine, which threatens territorial integrity of Ukraine ... I have the honor to request an urgent meeting of the Security Council in accordance with Articles 34 and 35 of the U.N. Charter," Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev wrote to Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite.

Murmokaite is president of the Security Council for the month of February. Her mission confirmed on Twitter that the meeting would take place at 3:00 p.m. EST (2000 GMT) on Friday.

Article 34 of the U.N. charter talks about the power of the 15-nation council to investigate disputes or "international friction" to determine whether international peace and security is in jeopardy.

It was not clear what the council could do at the meeting, which will take place behind closed doors. Russia is a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council and, therefore, able to block any proposed action by its members.

Diplomats said Russia, which has criticized Ukraine's new government and voiced support for ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, had attempted to delay the meeting.

A spokesman for Russia's U.N. mission declined to comment.

The Ukrainian letter to Lithuania, which was obtained by Reuters, came hours after Ukraine's parliament said it would appeal to the council to call a session to consider the problems in Ukraine in the light of a 1993 understanding in which the big powers agreed to guarantee Ukrainian territorial integrity.

In its letter, Ukraine, which is not a member of the council, requested the right to participate in the meeting.

(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Richard Balmforth and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by James Dalgleish, Gunna Dickson, Toni Reinhold) nL6N0LX3QA