(QHA) -

Britain’s top diplomat says Russia "must return Crimea to Ukraine," calling Crimea’s last unification with Russia "completely unacceptable."

"The annexation of Crimea was illegal and illegitimate in March 2014, and remains illegal and illegitimate in March 2015," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in March 22 comments posted on the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s website.

Crimea declared independence from Ukraine shortly after ouster of President Yanukovich in 2014 and joined Russia following a local referendum on the region’s status condemned as illegitimate by international community.

Hammond called the referendum a "sham" and a "fig leaf" for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s "land grab."

Putin said on March 18 that taking Crimea was necessary to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea and reclaim Russia’s historic roots.