BRUSSELS (AFP) - The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, advocated caution over the crisis in Ukraine on Tuesday, saying that "for the moment" he is opposed to new sanctions against Russia.
Mentioning the "common interests" between the European Union and Russia, he said that the "credibility" of the bloc depended on taking the right decisions.
"The EU has taken measures and it is not necessary at the moment to take new sanctions", he said. "There are common interests. What is Russia's interest? Exporting energy. What is the interest of the EU? To have energy at reasonable prices," said the German-born president, who is a candidate to be the next president of the European Commission.
Russia, he continued, wants to "make money by exporting energy, because they need that money to invest in their country, and to do that, they need investment from Europe, so there are common interests".
Speaking of the tensions in the country this week - which have seen pro-Russian protesters take over buildings in the east of Ukraine - he said there was a need to remain "vigilant".
But while he said that he hopes for a "better understanding" between Brussels and Moscow, he also cautioned Russia against "making the mistake of thinking that the division of Ukraine is a fait accompli".
"It is important to look carefully at what is going on," he said. "Is it a mass movement in the east of Ukraine, or are they just limited uprisings? It is not clear at the moment." Looking to the future, he said that after months of tension, it was now important "to stabilise Ukraine, help it's government, so they can have a fair and free election on May 25 and can keep the country together." "But it will cost money. We cannot just take measures against Russia, we also need to invest in Ukraine," he said.
Both the EU and the US have imposed sanctions on Russia, but at the weekend German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe would be prepared to go further "if the territorial integrity of Ukraine continues to be violated".