A two-day international meeting convened Tuesday in London designed to recover Ukrainian financial assets that were stolen from the nation at the outset of the on-going crisis there.
Ukrainian prosecutors say when former President Viktor Yanukovich fled the country in February, he took with him with billions of dollars in Ukrainian assets.
The Ukraine Forum on Asset Recovery has been jointly organized by Britain and the United States to track down those funds.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, British Home Secretary Theresa May and Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov spoke to reporters as the meeting opened.
Avakov said Ukraine has been left in a precarious financial situation.
"As of today we are in a situation where we have difficult external political factors influencing and affecting us, because Ukraine is nearly at the bridge of war, because the new government, the interim government, has been set up and we've found out that our treasury is just empty and the funds are misappropriated, and all of our authorities are criminalized and there is no way we can work normally under such conditions," said Avakov.
Senior government officials, judicial experts, prosecutors, financial intelligence analysts and regulators from a number of countries and international organizations are attending the meeting.
Holder said it is difficult to say just how much money was taken from Ukraine:
"But I think it is safe to say that we are talking about billions of dollars, billions of American dollars. And I think that shows the magnitude of the problem and what is at stake. And if one thinks about the issues that Ukraine is facing, the repatriation of those kinds of money, those amounts of money, can go a long way to dealing with the issues that are presently confronting the Ukrainian people," said Holder.
As well as planning practical steps for Ukraine, the meeting is intended to establish international cooperation in tracing assets that might be hidden behind complex corporate structures.
London is reportedly a top destination for money from the former Soviet Union and many Ukrainian oligarchs have stashed assets there in the past.