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Russia says NATO is using Ukraine crisis to boost appeal

A barricade is set up in front of the seized SBU state security service in Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine April 10, 2014. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumat
A barricade is set up in front of the seized SBU state security service in Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine April 10, 2014. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumat

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Foreign Ministry accused NATO on Thursday of using the crisis in Ukraine to boost its appeal to members and justify its existence by rallying them against an imaginary threat.

Russia and the West are locked in a Cold War-style stand-off over Ukraine and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Moscow to pull back troops from the Ukrainian border or face consequences if they intervene.

The ministry said Rasmussen's remarks were confrontational and that in recent months he had not offered "any constructive agenda" for Ukraine, adding that it was adding to instability in the region.

"The constant accusations against us by the secretary general convince us that the alliance is trying to use the crisis in Ukraine to rally its ranks in the face of an imaginary external threat to NATO members and to strengthen demand for the alliance ... in the 21st century," it said.

NATO has suspended all practical military and civilian cooperation with Russia, although it said political dialogue could continue at ambassador level or higher, since Russia incorporated Ukraine's Crimea region last month.

The Western military alliance has also limited access for Russian diplomat's to its headquarters and is reviewing a 1997 co-operation agreement with Russia and subsequent Rome declaration of 2002 that prevented it from setting up bases in eastern and central Europe.

Russia has responded by accusing NATO of having a Cold War mentality and has expressed concern over the possibility of deploying the alliance's troops in eastern Europe permanently.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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