Ukraine and its Western allies on Monday agreed to work towards "peacefully" ending Russia's "occupation" of Crimea, without spelling out how, in a summit that sparked anger in Moscow.
The support for Ukraine – which has little chance of changing Russia's position – follows complaints from Kiev in recent months about its allies being reluctant to allow it to join NATO, refusing to deliver arms and maintaining gas agreements with Moscow to the detriment of Ukraine.
The meeting brought together representatives of more than 40 countries, including the heads of more than 10 European states.
They adopted a joint resolution on "peacefully ending the Russian Federation's temporary occupation" of Crimea. It condemned Crimea's annexation and human rights violations on the peninsula as well as its "militarisation" by Moscow.
It also stressed the need to "return to Ukraine" the peninsula, though there were no concrete measures spelled out.
"The participants welcome necessary joint diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring Ukraine's territorial integrity," the resolution said.
European Council President Charles Michel said that "Ukraine will never be alone and Crimea is Ukraine."
"We do not and will not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea," he added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for his country's allies to "force Russia to sit down at the negotiating table on the return of our peninsula".
"Ukraine alone will never be able to bring Crimea back," he said.
Moscow for its part denounced Monday's summit and on the eve of the event imposed sanctions on high-profile Ukrainian officials, including Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the summit "extremely unfriendly" towards Russia.
"The attitude is absolutely unambiguous," he told reporters Monday. "We treat it as an anti-Russian event."
Many in Ukraine were frustrated that countries like Germany, France and the United States dispatched lower-ranking officials to the summit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel notably did not attend, a day after failing to reassure Zelensky in Kiev on the soon-to-be completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline the Ukrainian leader sees as "a dangerous geopolitical weapon".
The pipeline, bypassing Ukraine and depriving it of essential transit fees, is set to double Russian natural gas shipments to Germany.
Monday's summit was opened by a Ukrainian singer of Crimean Tatar descent, Susana Dzhamaladinova, known as Jamala, who won the Eurovision song contest in 2016 with a song about the wartime deportation of Crimean Tatars under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
“We need to show the world that ethnocide of Crimean Tatars continues in Crimea,” Jamala told The Associated Press. “People in the world should know that we're barred from congregating even for honoring our ancestors.”
Ethnic Russians, who form a majority of Crimea’s 2.3 million people, widely supported the Russian annexation, but Crimean Tatars, who accounted for nearly 15 percent opposed it. An estimated 30,000 Crimean Tatars have fled Crimea since 2014.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)