PARIS (AP) — Two potential Ukrainian presidential contenders are urging the U.S. and European Union to stick to a single, tough stance against Russia over its military incursion into Crimea.
While Washington is imposing sanctions and strongly criticizing Moscow, the EU has taken softer measures. Some European countries are wary of antagonizing Russia, a major energy supplier and trade partner, and anything that might lead to war on this continent.
Former boxer Vitali Klitschko and magnate Petro Poroshenko, both of whom are seen as likely candidates in Ukraine's May presidential election, sought European support Friday to bring Ukraine and its economy under control while Russia has moved forces into the Crimean Peninsula.
Poroshenko told reporters in Paris that Ukraine wants the EU and U.S. "to speak in one voice and be on the same wavelength."
Klitschko, a leader of the protest movement that sent Ukraine's president fleeing last month, said "we need a joint position by all EU countries and the United States."
Klitschko told The Associated Press that "of course" he is afraid of Russian aggression, but said the standoff over Crimea shouldn't be solved "on a military level."
"We must do everything so that not a single drop of blood is spilled," he said at Le Bourget Airport.
President Francois Hollande maintained a cautious tone in meetings with the two men Friday. While criticizing Crimean lawmakers' efforts to break away from Ukraine and join Russia, Hollande said he wants to "leave open the path of dialogue so that Russia can seize it whenever it decides to do so."
EU leaders imposed limited sanctions on Russia on Thursday, while President Barack Obama slapped visa restrictions on opponents of Ukraine's new government and authorized wider financial penalties.
The cautious EU position reflects divisions within the continent, but also the nature of a union created to prevent war and ease trade after centuries of conflict. The bloc reaches all of its decisions by painstaking consensus.
"America is one country and it can take steps, it does things in a slightly different way from the European Union. The European Union is 28 sovereign countries who have to agree together," British Prime Minister David Cameron said after an EU summit Thursday night.
Canada, home to more than 1 million people of Ukrainian descent, imposed its own travel bans Friday on people threatening Ukraine's territorial integrity. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the ban was to protest Russian President Vladimir Putin's "illegal military occupation" of Crimea.