(Bloomberg) -- A Russian Defense Ministry proposal to change the country’s Baltic Sea border and territorial waters next to NATO rivals that prompted sharp responses from Lithuania and Finland was removed from a government website without explanation.

The document, which had been published for public discussion, said the ministry wanted to adjust coordinates for points at which it calculates Russia’s territorial waters and referenced a 1985 document passed by the Soviet Union to justify the proposal. The regulatory website said Wednesday the project had been deleted.

Before its removal, three major Russian news wires carried a statement from an unnamed “military-diplomatic source” denying that Moscow has any plans to revise the state border in the Baltic or revise its territorial waters. They didn’t explain why the document had been published.

Russia’s Baltic neighbors reacted furiously to the document’s original publication. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later denied any political intent, though he didn’t disown the document and said Russia was obliged to take “appropriate steps” to ensure its security.

Russia is “attempting to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about their intentions in the Baltic Sea,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Wednesday in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “This is an obvious escalation against NATO and the EU, and must be met with an appropriately firm response.”

The measure emerged amid spiraling tensions between the Kremlin and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine began Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II. It comes little more than a year since Finland entered NATO and less than three months after Sweden joined the alliance, solidifying Europe’s Baltic Sea defenses in response to Russia’s aggression.

“There is nothing political here, although the political situation has seriously changed,” Peskov told reporters, according to the state-run Tass news service. Escalating tensions in the Baltic region “call for appropriate steps from our relevant departments to provide for our security,” he said.

Read more: How Russia Pushed Finland and Sweden to Join NATO: QuickTake

While the ministry didn’t specify the points to be changed or how borders would be altered, it said the move would affect the country’s mainland and islands in the Baltic Sea. In particular, it would potentially impact the Gulf of Finland and the border area around the Kaliningrad region, Russia’s exclave neighboring Lithuania and Poland.

Finland’s Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen said the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea governed how coastal states defined their maritime areas, and Russia should abide by the charter as a signatory. “Sowing confusion is a part of hybrid influencing. Finland won’t be confused,” she said in a post on X. 

Valtonen, speaking to the media later, said her country would take as its starting point “that this is a routine inspection of coordinates,” which the UN charter allows. She said Finland will continue “monitoring the situation and will seek to find out officially what this is all about,” but that “currently, there is no reason to speculate.”

Russia originally said it would hold public consultation until June 4, and the proposal set January 2025 as the date when a shift would take place. In an explanatory document, the Defense Ministry said it was acting in line with a government order agreed in 2019 on development of Russia’s maritime activities to 2030.

It argued that changes were needed because existing measurement points don’t allow Russia to determine the limit of its territorial waters and “do not fully correspond to the modern geographical situation,” without explaining further.

Russia would change maritime navigation maps to reflect the new sea border, according to the document.

--With assistance from Milda Seputyte, Kati Pohjanpalo and Leo Laikola.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.