Brussels reaffirmed its "unwavering" support for Ukraine over Crimea as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to do “everything possible” to get back control of the peninsula so that Ukraine “becomes part of Europe”.
"I am here to reaffirm the EU's unwavering stance: we do not and will not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia," European Council President Charles Michel said during a speech at the first International Crimea Platform Summit.
"We will continue to staunchly enforce our non-recognition policy. And we will stand tall against any violations of international law," he added.
The summit in Kyiv on Monday aims to bring together allies to discuss the possibilities of returning the Crimean peninsula to Ukrainian government control.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at the beginning of the conference that the region had turned into "a territory where most basic rights and freedoms of humans are regularly violated".
“I believe the territory of the Crimea, long known as a recreation area, has turned into a military base and lodgment area of Russian Federation influence on Black Sea region,” he said.
He warned that the occupation of the Crimea “brings doubts to the efficiency of the whole international security system, principles of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders”.
“Without restoration of confidence any country couldn't be sure if it's territory would not be occupied,” he added.
What is the Crimean Platform Summit?
Ukraine convened the international summit to build up pressure on Russia over the annexation of Crimea, which is viewed as illegal by most of the world.
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.
Top officials from 46 countries and blocs took part in the summit, including from each of the 30 NATO members.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced the summit as an “anti-Russian event.”
The summit was held the day after Angela Merkel paid her final visit to Kyiv as Germany’s chancellor.
She urged further peace talks on the eastern Ukraine situation, calling for “another meeting at the presidential level or the political leadership level”.
Zelenskyy took the opportunity on Sunday to call for further pressure on Russia from the international community.
“As long as there is no progress, the pressure on Russia should continue. We want to see active efforts of our Western partners,” he said.
Michel called for the "broadest international support possible in addressing the annexation of Crimea, through non-recognition measures and advocacy in international fora."
He denounced Russian actions which he said "multiply the negative impact of the annexation".
"The continued militarisation of the peninsula heavily affects the security situation in the Black Sea region. This should be reversed. The human rights situation remains dire, due to Russia's efforts to forcibly integrate the peninsula into its mainland," he said.