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MOSCOW, March 20 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told President Vladimir Putin on Thursday he was "deeply concerned" by the crisis between Russia and Ukraine.
Ban met Putin as Russia's lower house of parliament voted to approve a treaty the Russian leader signed on Tuesday to absorb the Ukrainian region of Crimea into Russia, a move that has caused the biggest East-West confrontation since the Cold War.
"I am deeply concerned about the current situation involving Ukraine and also Russia," Ban said after the two sat down for talks in the Kremlin.
Ukraine and Western governments say Russia has illegally seized control of Crimea from Kiev. Russia denies this, saying Crimea voted for union with Russia in a referendum, although the West regards the referendum as illegitimate.
Putin said Russia "constantly and consistently supports the central role of the United Nations in global affairs.
"And we highly value your efforts, Mr. Secretary-General, in resolving the possibly existing crises and those that existed before on the planet - a positive and very efficient role," Putin said. He did not mention Ukraine in the portion of the meeting open to journalists.
Ban met Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier on Thursday. He will travel to Kiev on Friday on a trip the United Nations said was "part of (his) diplomatic efforts to encourage all parties to resolve the current crisis peacefully".
(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)