UNITED NATIONS, March 2 (Xinhua) -- UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson will leave for Ukraine Sunday evening in an effort to de-escalate the intensifying crisis in the country, a UN spokesman told reporters here.
"While in Ukraine, the deputy secretary-general will be personally apprised of the facts on the ground and will subsequently brief the secretary-general on the next steps the United Nations could take to support the de-escalation of the situation," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement issued here.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made the decision after the UN Security Council met behind closed doors twice since Friday to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine.
The 15-nation UN body, in an unusual Saturday session on the intensifying crisis in Ukraine, heard calls for "cooler heads" to prevail.
Ban, who said that he is "gravely concerned" about the current Ukrainian crisis, said after his telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, that "I urged President Putin to engage in direct dialogue with authorities in Kiev," the capital of Ukraine.
Putin has not yet decided on the use of military force in Ukraine despite winning the green light from the upper house of parliament for such a move, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Saturday.
Putin had asked for approval of using armed forces in Ukraine "in connection with the extraordinary situation in Ukraine, the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our compatriots, and the personnel of the military contingent of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation deployed in the territory of Ukraine ( Autonomous Republic of Crimea)," the Kremlin has said.
Crimea is now the epicenter of Ukraine's ongoing crisis after some 50 armed men carrying Russian navy flags on Friday took control of the two airports in the regional capital of Simferopol, one day after gunmen seized the local parliament and government buildings.
Crimea is a multiethnic region, but heavily Russian, that was granted a large degree of autonomy after Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991.
However, Russia has maintained its only Black Sea naval base in the port of Sevastopol, Crimea.
The Ukrainian political crisis, which originated from public anger over President Viktor Yanukovych's decision in November last year to put on hold an association agreement with the European Union in order to get Russian aid, took an abrupt turn in the past two weeks as a result of bloody clashes between protestors and police. Yanukovych was ousted by parliament and had to flee to Russia.