BEIJING, March 15 (Xinhua) -- The international community on Friday expressed concern about the March 16 referendum in Ukraine's southern autonomous republic of Crimea on whether to join Russia or remain in Ukraine.
"It is clear that we are at a crossroads" in the Ukraine crisis and "if positions continue to harden and rhetoric continues to sharpen, there is a great risk of a dangerous downward spiral," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday.
After traveling around the western parts of Ukraine, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic said he was checking out reports of "chronic human rights violations," met with officials, members of civil society, various ethnic groups and "victims of various human rights violations."
Simonovic was dispatched by the secretary-general to the Ukrainian capital to examine accusations of human rights abuses in all of Ukraine.
The UN Security Council is expected to convene an emergency meeting on Saturday to vote on a draft resolution on Ukraine, drawn up by the United States and backed by Western countries.
The council meeting comes after talks in London between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the Ukrainian crisis made no progress on Friday.
The two diplomats failed to reach any agreement on Crimean referendum as both sides refused to back down from their previous stances towards the stalemate in Ukraine.
Lavrov said Russia and the United States did not have a "common vision" on the crisis in Ukraine, while emphasizing that Russia will respect "the will of the people of Crimea" and the results of the referendum in the region on Sunday.
However, Kerry said Russian President Vladimir Putin is "not prepared" to make any decision on Ukraine yet.
The United States and its allies "respect" Russia's legitimate interests in Ukraine, but insist that there is "a better way" for Russia to pursue the interests, he added.
After the talks, U.S. President Barack Obama said he continued to hope that a "diplomatic solution" can be found to the current crisis.
The Itar-Tass news agency reported that 69 international observers from 23 countries will monitor the referendum in Crimea on Sunday.
Commenting on the referendum, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksenov said Friday that the republic is seeking to join Russia rather than win independence, and it would take up to one year to complete the transition process.
He said that Russia has deployed forces in the peninsula, but they have not conducted active operations.
"The Black Sea Fleet never goes away since the independence of Ukraine," Aksenov said, adding the public order in Crimea has been maintained by local self-defense, law enforcement and security service units.
However, the legality of the referendum is challenged by the Ukrainian Constitutional Court, which on Friday declared the referendum unconstitutional.
The Constitutional Court ordered to stop the activities of the special commission which prepares the referendum in the Black Sea peninsula and obliged the responsible officials to destroy the event's voting-papers and promotional materials.
Calling the coming referendum a direct violation of the Ukrainian constitution and international law, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also said it would "have no legal effect or political legitimacy."
Holding this referendum would "undermine international efforts to find a peaceful and political solution to the crisis in Ukraine," he said.
The Ukraine crisis, which originated from protests against President Viktor Yanukovych's decision last November to abandon an association agreement with the European Union for Russian aid, took an abrupt turn in the past two weeks following bloody clashes between protesters and police.
Ukraine's Crimea became the epicenter of an ongoing tension in the east European country.