Prague - The events in eastern Ukraine provoke a clear suspicion that Russia intervenes there, but this is still no reason for imposing the EU's economic sanctions against Moscow, Czech Foreign Minister Zaoralek (Social Democrats (CSSD) told CTK today.
Český ministr zahraničí Lubomír Zaorálek hovoří s novináři 14. dubna v Lucemburku při příchodu na jednání šéfů diplomacií EU. ČTK Dospiva Jakub
He said an economic war with Russia would seriously harm not only Russia but also other countries in the region and the EU.
Zaoralek said he did not expect the Russian army to directly invade eastern Ukraine as it did in Crimea.
The EU has so far applied targeted sanctions against some 30 Russian and Crimean representatives. They are banned from entering the EU and their property in the EU has been frozen.
The EU intends to impose economic sanctions only after Russian troops cross the East Ukrainian border. It has most likely not yet happened, Zaoralek said.
He is not of the view that the EU should have imposed economic sanctions against Russia earlier.
"If we had immediately started an economic war with all that belongs to it, such a war would have afflicted not only Russia but also Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership countries," Zaoralek said.
He referred to the Eastern Partnership project of cooperation between the EU and six post-Soviet republics, including Ukraine, which was launched five years ago. A two-day summit to mark its anniversary was opened at Prague Castle, the presidential seat, this afternoon.
Zaoralek said the EU´s goal cannot be to economically destroy Russia.
"Our goal was to tell Russia clearly that it had violated the U.N. Charter and fundamental articles on respect for another country´s territorial integrity and sovereignty. However, it seems to me at the same time that it would not be good to take all steps as quickly as possible to get rid of Russia. We cannot get rid of it," Zaoralek pointed out.
The current targeted sanctions are pushing Moscow into a stalemate and the Russian economy faces strong negative consequences, he added.
Russia cannot afford to repeat the scenario from Crimea that was first controlled by the local pro-Russian forces and then, with Russian troops´s presence on the peninsula, the inhabitants supported Russia´s annexation in a referendum, Zaoralek said.
Moscow annexed Crimea in March.
"The Russian position in eastern Ukraine is much weaker compared to Crimea. According to my information, the majority of inhabitants would not accept it [annexation] and a situation similar to Crimea would not repeat there," Zaoralek said.
Russia is striving for the destabilisation and escalation of the situation in Ukraine, which is apparent from Moscow´s negative stance on the upcoming Ukrainian presidential election to be held on May 25, Zaoralek said.
The West expects the presidential election to attenuate the crisis in Ukraine.
"Russia has a different interest. The election does not suit Moscow since it has no candidate in it. As there is no candidate who stands sufficiently close to Russia, its seems that its goal is to prevent the election," Zaoralek said.