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Hagel says Russian military exercises up tensions

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says Russian military exercises on its border with Ukraine increase tensions and run counter to a diplomatic agreement it signed just last week.

Hagel spoke with reporters in Mexico City after he was informed of the Russian military exercises that President Vladimir Putin said were in response to punitive measures by Ukrainian forces against pro-Russian insurgents.

Hagel called the military exercises "dangerously destabilizing" and "very provocative." Hagel said if such activities escalate they will make it more difficult to find a diplomatic solution to the situation in Ukraine.

Russian troops began new military exercises, sharpening anxiety over the prospect of a Russian military incursion into Ukraine. Russia's foreign minister warned Wednesday that any attack on Russian interests in eastern Ukraine would bring a strong response.

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