For the first time, Ukraine has held a conference to drum up support from the international community for the return of Crimea, which Russia annexed seven years ago.
Representatives of more than 40 countries and international organizations took part in the conference, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hosted in the capital Kyiv on Monday. Top leaders were present from countries having close ties with Ukraine, such as Poland and the three Baltic states.
In his speech, Zelenskyy said, "From today, we are actually starting the countdown to the liberation of our land."
US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, who represented the United States, condemned Russia's annexation of Crimea.
The participants agreed to launch the Crimea Platform, a framework for the ongoing international efforts to resolve the issue, and they adopted a joint declaration.
The joint declaration states, "The participants in the International Crimea Platform do not recognize and continue to condemn the temporary occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea."
Zelenskyy pointed out before the meeting that some countries are afraid of Russia, noting that many of them refrained from sending their top leaders.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, "We regard this event as extremely unfriendly towards our country."