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STOCKHOLM: Sweden and Finland plan to stay out of NATO despite the “shock” of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, leaders of the two countries said Thursday.

With the military offensive ordered last night by Russian President Vladimir Putin, “we have entered a new and dark chapter in European history,” Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told a press conference.

She condemned “a clear violation of international law and against the European security order”.

Despite a debate about NATO membership that has been revived by Ukraine tensions, the Social Democrat leader said Sweden’s position on not joining the defence alliance remained in place.

“In a situation like this it is important that Sweden’s long-standing security policy stays firm. That we are predictable and clear,” Andersson said.

“Sweden has been alliance-free for an extremely long time. It has served Sweden’s interests well,” she added. Earlier in neighbouring Finland, the government also ruled out immediate moves closer to NATO membership.

“We have a security policy designed to withstand times of crisis. We will use the means at our disposal, including cooperation with NATO partners,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told a press conference.

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