FRANKFURT (AFP) - Tougher sanctions may destabilise the situation further in Russia and plunge the country into chaos, German deputy chancellor Sigmar Gabriel warned in a newspaper interview on Sunday.
"The goal was never to push Russia politically and economically into chaos," Gabriel told the Bild am Sonntag.
"Whoever wants that will provoke a much more dangerous situation for all of us in Europe," he said, pointing out that Russia was a nuclear power.
The aim of the sanctions imposed against Russia so far was to steer the country back to the negotiating table.
"Those who want to destabilise Russia economically and politically even more are pursuing completely different interests," said Gabriel, who is also Germany's economy minister.
Some in Europe and in the United States want to see the old arch-rival Russia on its knees, but Gabriel said: "That is not Germany's or Europe's interest."
"We want to help solve the conflict in Ukraine, not to force Russia to its knees," he said.
The West has repeatedly accused Russia of stoking the Ukraine crisis, by supplying weapons and troops to the rebels. Moscow denies the charge.
Sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States, along with plunging oil prices, have sent the rouble crashing by some 40 percent against the dollar last year.