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Russia Hits Nordic Defense Pact as 'Confrontational'


Spectators watch the action standing next to Russian and Crimean flags during celebrations marking the first anniversary of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, in central Simferopol, March 16, 2015.

Russia has criticized five Nordic nations for signing a joint defense pact, accusing the governments of Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden of "confrontational approaches" to regional defense and security issues.

Sunday's Russian Foreign Ministry critique came just days after Nordic leaders, in a formal declaration, agreed to boost military cooperation in the face of what the document described as "aggressive" Russian military behavior in Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe.

Military tensions between Russia and Western governments have risen dramatically in the past 12 months, as the pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine has gained strength and direct Russian military involvement in the uprising has become more apparent.

The Nordic ministers also cited "increasing [Russian] military and intelligence activity in the Baltics," and noted ongoing Russian military faceoffs along the borders of Nordic and NATO countries. It describes Russian military activity as "the biggest challenge to the European security."

In a thinly veiled reference to Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, the Nordic ministers describe Russian leaders as having "shown that they are prepared to make practical and effective use of military means in order to reach their political goals."

For its part, Moscow has flatly rejected accusations from NATO and its Nordic allies of direct involvement in the Ukraine crisis.

The Kremlin has also warned the West against using those accusations to justify increased Western military aid to non-NATO Ukraine.

The Nordic defense pact calls for more joint military exercises and a boost in defense sector cooperation. It also calls for a joint exchange of intelligence information, in a move seen as pulling non-NATO Finland and Sweden closer to the 28-nation military alliance.