By Andrea Thomas

BERLIN--German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for the swift implementation of sanctions against sectors of the Russian economy, signaling that the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet in eastern Ukraine and Moscow's insufficient support of the Ukraine peace process leaves the West with no option other than taking tougher steps.

"After the death of 300 innocent people following the crash of MH17 and the unworthy behavior of marauding soldiers at the crash site, the behavior of Russia doesn't leave us any other choice," Mr. Steinmeier told Saturday's German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The comments come as the European Union is currently finalizing plans for so-called "third stage" sanctions targeting broad sectors of the Russian economy. EU governments could decide as early as Tuesday to move forward with economic sanctions that would restrict Russian access to European capital markets and prohibit exports of militarily sensitive goods, energy-sector technology and arms to Russia, according to EU diplomats.

"Russia has already damaged its economy with its attitude, [and] the sanctions will intensify this. Now it must be clear to everyone in Moscow that instead of only words, real contributions to a de-escalation in eastern Ukraine are necessary," said Mr. Steinmeier. But he also stressed that Europe remains open to "serious talks with Russia."

In a separate interview with German weekly magazine WirtschaftsWoche published Saturday, Mr. Steinmeier said he was "surprised" that sanctions against Russia have been effective even before they have been imposed, pointing to capital outflows from the Russian economy.

He said sanctions against Russia will have "for the meantime limited" impact on Germany, despite the close business ties between the two countries. German businesses, however, have warned that Europe's largest economy will be hit by sanctions against Russia.

"Of all EU countries, Germany has the biggest trade with Russia and would be affected most by the sanctions," said Eckard Cordes, who heads Ostauschuss, German industry's lobbying arm for Eastern Europe, in an interview with Focus weekly magazine published Saturday.

The head of the VDMA German Engineering Association, Reinhold Festge, told the same magazine that governments should ask themselves when imposing sanctions "what damage they will cause and whether they will lead to the desired result."

Matthew Dalton and Laurence Norman contributed to this article.

Write to Andrea Thomas at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 26, 2014 06:47 ET (10:47 GMT)

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