Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy opened the Crimean Platform summit in Kyiv Monday to build pressure on Russia over its annexation of the Crimea territory, which is viewed as illegal by most of the world.
Officials from 46 countries and blocs are taking part in the two-day summit, including representatives from each of the 30 NATO members. The U.S. delegation is headed up by Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.
Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014, following the revolution in Ukraine that saw former president and Russian ally Viktor Yanukovych ousted and the government overthrown. The annexation prompted the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions on Russia.
The goal of the conference is to discuss ways of returning the Crimean Peninsula to Ukrainian government control.
Speaking at the start of the conference, Zelenskiy said Crimea had turned into "a territory where most basic rights and freedoms of humans are regularly violated."
He also said the region, once a popular recreation area for Ukrainians, had become a "military base and lodgment area of Russian Federation influence on the Black Sea region."
The Ukrainian president said the occupation of Crimea casts doubt on the ability of the international community to uphold security, principles of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders.
“Without restoration of confidence, any country couldn't be sure if its territory would not be occupied,” he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced the summit as an “anti-Russian event.” Moscow says an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to become part of Russia in a 2014 referendum, wanting protection from what the Kremlin cast as an illegal coup in Kyiv.