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Published: Saturday March 1, 2014 MYT 4:30:02 AM
Updated: Saturday March 1, 2014 MYT 4:31:00 AM

Russian cooperation crucial for resolving Ukraine's crisis - EU official

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Any peaceful resolution of Ukraine's political turmoil must have Russia in the mix out of concern the two nations could descend into open warfare, European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani said on Friday.

"Of course it is important to back democracy, but at the same time it is important to work with Russia. Why? Because without strong cooperation with Russia it is impossible to have a good solution. The danger is Georgia II," Tajani told Reuters on the sidelines of an Italian business conference.

Tajani was alluding to the 2008 war involving Russia and another former Soviet republic, Georgia, over two Moscow-backed breakaway regions, Abhkazia and South Ossetia.

In Ukraine, armed men took control of two airports in the Crimea region on Friday in what the new Ukrainian leadership described as an invasion by Moscow's forces, and ousted President Viktor Yanukovich said Russia should use all means at its disposal to stop the chaos in Ukraine.

One of eight vice presidents on the European Commission, Tajani called Ukraine a "complicated cocktail" of 46 million people with different ethnic and cultural traditions.

"I don't know if (a) split is a good solution. But today, first of all, it is important to block Georgia II. Today this is the danger. Then it is possible to study a good solution," he said.

Yanukovich provoked street protests in November by turning away from signing a wide-ranging free trade and association agreement with the European Union and saying Kiev would instead seek closer economic and trade ties with Moscow.

"The Ukraine problem is not European enlargement. It is a political problem because the people in Ukraine are not the same everywhere."

Ukrainian-speaking western regions of Ukraine tilt toward closer ties with the EU, while Russian-speaking southern and eastern regions, which include Crimea, are more pro-Russian.

"After the USSR empire there are many problems. It is important to be very smart because it is not easy and for this the cooperation with Russia is crucial," Tajani said.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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