Russia’s occupation of Crimea is big miscalculation, warns Hague

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Russia’s occupation of Crimea will prove a “big miscalculation” in the long term, William Hague said as he sought to keep up pressure for a diplomatic solution.

The Foreign Secretary conceded that none of the sanctions being threatened by the West could remove Moscow’s military forces from the Ukrainian peninsula.

But he said there would be “very significant” consequences for Russia’s future global influence if it refused to enter talks with Kiev over the stand-off.

The population of the key strategic region is due to vote in a referendum on becoming part of Russia in a week’s time after pro-Russian forces seized control of key military and other facilities.

Mr Hague dismissed Vladimir Putin’s claims that the insignia-less troops are local fighters not Russian personnel – though he declined to say directly that the Russian president was lying.

The Kremlin “clearly had a well-rehearsed plan to move militarily” into the region which it was forced to hurriedly implement on the ousting of pro-Russian Ukrainian president Victor Yanokovich, Mr Hague said.

But despite criticism of the failure of the EU to impose sufficiently stringent sanctions on Moscow, Mr Hague insisted there was no “tacit acceptance” of the takeover in the Crimea.

“It would be wrong to conclude that Russia has won in some sense. I think this will turn out over time to be quite a big miscalculation,” he told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show. “The long-term consequences will be very significant for Russia.

“European nations will, if no solution to this can be found, recast their approach to energy and economic links to Russia over time. The long-term effect will be to unite Ukraine more against Russian domination of their affairs and to recast European policies in a way that will reduce Russian leverage over Europe.”

He went on: “None of the measures we can propose remove Russian forces from the Crimea. Nobody is proposing a military conflict between the West and Russia. “But some of the diplomatic and other costs to Russia of this are serious and need to be taken seriously in Moscow.”

The Kremlin refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the interim Ukrainian government and the Russian parliament has backed the Crimean legislature’s decision to rejoin Russia subject to the backing of its majority-Russian population in the proposed March 16 vote.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said his country would not give up “a single centimetre” of its territory.

Speaking in front of a crowd gathered in Kiev to commemorate the 200th anniversary of poet and nationalist Taras Shevchenko, Mr Yatsenyuk said: “This is our land. Our fathers and grandfathers have spilled their blood for this land. And we won’t budge a single centimetre from Ukrainian land.”

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