The OECD said today it had postponed all activities related to Russia's accession to the organisation following a request from its 34 members.

The organisation includes economic heavyweights such as the US, Germany, France, Japan and Mexico.

The move is the latest effort to apply pressure on Moscow ahead of a referendum on Sunday in which Ukraine's southern region of Crimea could vote to secede and join Russia.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development did not give further details, but according to its website the grouping opened discussions with Russia in 2007 for membership of the organisation.

The accession procedure is complex and can be long, as it involves a series of examinations to assess a country’s ability to meet OECD standards in a wide range of policy areas.

During membership discussions, countries must demonstrate or bring their policies up to OECD standards in a range of areas such as tax, the environment and statistics.

Gaining access to the organisation is considered recognition that the country's economy and development level have reached an important mark.

The OECD also said its members had agreed to strengthen co-operation with Ukraine to help it address the "public policy challenges it faces".

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has made good progress in its fact-finding mission in Kiev and will soon discuss Ukraine's economic situation with IMFmanagement, a Fund spokesman said today.
A team from the IMF arrived in Kiev last week to assess the country's economic situation and discuss a possible bailout programme. Ukraine's new government has said it desperately needs cash to cover expenses and avert a possible default.
"My understanding is that the discussions in Kiev had made good progress, there has been a very good exchange of views," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters. 

He said the mission would return to Washington soon, possibly on Friday.