UNITED NATIONS, March 19 (Xinhua) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to leave New York Wednesday afternoon for a visit to Russia and Ukraine in efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis, Ban's spokesman told reporters here.
"The secretary-general is departing New York this afternoon for a visit which will take him to the Russian Federation and to Ukraine as part of his diplomatic efforts to encourage all parties to resolve the current crisis peacefully," said a message from the spokesman to the press here.
"The secretary-general has consistently called for a solution that is guided by the principles of the United Nations Charter," the spokesman said.
Leading the United Nations push for parties in Ukraine to resolve the country's ongoing political crisis through peaceful dialogue, Ban said on Monday that he was "deeply concerned and disappointed" that this weekend's Crimea secession referendum will only exacerbate an "already complex and tense situation."
Crimea, a Ukrainian autonomous republic, held a referendum on Sunday, with some 96.6 percent of the voters for joining Russia.
The referendum capped months of political unrest, triggered by the Ukrainian government's decision last November not to sign an agreement on broader European integration.
Violent demonstrations and street clashes erupted in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, in late January, culminating with the removal by Parliament of President Viktor Yanukovych. Tensions mounted in the Crimea region, where additional Russian troops and armoured vehicles were reportedly deployed.
Ban's first stop will be Moscow, where he will on Thursday meet with President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other senior officials, the spokesman said.
"Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia in the hearts and minds of people," Putin declared in his speech in Moscow on Tuesday.
The secretary-general will on Friday travel to Kiev, where he will hold talks with Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and other officials, said the spokesman.
In the Ukrainian capital, Ban also will also meet with members of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission and representatives of civil society, the spokesman added.
Putin on Monday signed a decree recognizing Crimea as a sovereign and independent state, ignoring Western sanctions on several Russian officials.
In Kiev, Yatsenyuk, who said the Crimean referendum is illegal, on Tuesday said that the Russian-Ukrainian conflict had moved from "a political to a military phase" and laid the blame squarely on Russia.
Moscow does not recognize the new interim Ukrainian government headed by Yatsenyuk.