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Germany's deputy chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, has warned against destabilizing Russia through too severe sanctions over the Ukraine crisis. He said an unstable Russia would pose a danger to all of Europe.
Gabriel told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that it was not in Germany's or Europe's interest to bring about a Russian collapse.
"The goal was never to push Russia politically and economically into chaos," Gabriel said in an interview.
"Whoever wants that will provoke a much more dangerous situation for all of us in Europe," he said, adding that the aim of the sanctions so far was to bring Russia back into negotiations.
"We want to help solve the conflict in Ukraine, not to force Russia to its knees ," he said.
Gabriel's comments echo the sentiments voiced by his fellow Social Democrat, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in mid-December.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, has in recent months renewed her criticism of Russia and reaffirmed her belief in sanctions as a way of bringing an end to the Ukraine conflict.
The European Union and the United States have imposed heavy economic sanctions on Russia both for its annexation of Crimea early last year and for its alleged role in the Ukraine crisis, accusing it of fueling a pro-Russian insurgency there by supplying the rebels with weapons and troops.
The sanctions, along with plummeting oil prices, sent the ruble into free fall against the dollar last year and raised the specter of a possible deep recession.
tj/ksb (Reuters, AFP)