KYIV -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has vowed to do "everything possible" to return Russia-annexed Crimea to Ukraine as an international forum on the issue looked to rally international support.
In his opening remarks to the forum on August 23, Zelenskiy told government delegations from 45 countries, including the United States, all member-states of the European Union, and Great Britain, that Crimea, together with Ukraine, should become part of Europe.
"For this we will use all possible political, legal, and, first and foremost, diplomatic means," Zelenskiy said, adding that Kyiv needs "effective support at the international level."
Russia took control of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after sending in troops, seizing key facilities, and staging a referendum dismissed as illegal by at least 100 countries. Moscow also backs separatists in a war against government forces that has killed more than 13,200 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
Zelenskiy initiated the Crimean Platform summit when he was given a floor at the session of the United Nations' General Assembly in September.
At the forum, aimed at creating a coalition of countries to support the de-occupation of Crimea and Ukraine's territories in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, he accused Russia of turning Crimea into a “military base" and "a foothold for Russia to boost its influence on the Black Sea region."
In turn, Russia has called the forum "a farce" while threatening participants with "consequences."
Just days before the summit, Moscow imposed sanctions against Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the Secretary of Ukraine's Council of National Security and Defense, Oleksiy Danylov.
Zelenskiy Looks To International Forum To Return Russia-Annexed Crimea