KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president on Monday vowed to do all he can to bring back the peninsula of Crimea, annexed by Russia seven years ago, and urged international allies to support the effort.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke at the Crimean Platform summit, called by Ukraine to build up pressure on Russia over the 2014 annexation that has been denounced as illegal by most of the world. Russia’s relations with the West have sunk to post-Cold War lows as a result.
In his opening remarks, Zelenskyy promised to “do everything possible to return Crimea, so that Crimea, together with Ukraine, becomes part of Europe.”
“For this we will use all possible political, legal and first and foremost diplomatic means,” Zelenskyy said, adding that Kyiv needs “effective support at the international level.”
Top officials from 46 countries and blocs took part in the summit, including from the United States, the European Union and Turkey. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced the summit as an “anti-Russian event.”
Zelenskyy charged that Russia has turned Crimea into a “military base” and “a foothold for Russia to boost its influence on the Black Sea region.” He said Moscow has tripled its military presence in Crimea.
In April, Russia increased troops near its borders with Ukraine, including in Crimea, eliciting international outrage.
On June 23, Russia said one of its warships in the Black Sea fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs in the path of the HMS Defender, a British Royal Navy destroyer, to chase it away from an area near Crimea that Moscow claims as its territorial waters. Britain, which like most other nations didn’t recognize the annexation of Crimea, insisted the Defender wasn’t fired upon and said it was sailing in Ukrainian waters.
All 30 NATO member states were represented at the summit.
“Occupation of Crimea casts doubts on the effectiveness of the entire international security system,” Ukraine’s president said. “Without restoring the trust in it, not a single state can be sure that it wouldn’t become the next victim of occupation.”