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PRAGUE, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Slovakia's prime minister criticized European Union sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, saying they would only threaten economic growth in the 28-member bloc.
"Why should we jeopardize the EU economy that begins to grow?" Robert Fico told a news conference.
"If there is a crisis situation, it should be solved by other means than meaningless sanctions. Who profits from EU economy decreasing, Russia's economy having troubles and Ukraine economically on its knees?"
Fico also said Slovakia must be prepared for a potential disruption of Russian natural gas supplies via Ukraine.
Russia cut gas supplies to Ukraine on June 16 in a dispute over unpaid bills but so far has continued to supply gas which Ukraine sends on to Russia's other customers.
But intensified fighting in eastern Ukraine between Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists and escalating tit-for-tat sanctions between Russia and the EU have raised fears of a disruption of deliveries to Europe.
Europe takes about a third of its gas imports from Russia, and about 40 percent of that amount flows through Ukraine and into the west via Slovakia.
"We must be prepared that such a situation can actually come about," Fico said when asked about potential disruptions during a meeting with representatives of main Slovak gas companies, SPP and Eustream.
The European Union in July published a law that will curb arms sales to Russia and cut off financing for five major Russian banks over Moscow's support for rebels in Ukraine.
In response, Moscow banned imports of most food from the West, a stronger than expected measure that isolates Russian consumers from world trade to a degree unseen since Soviet days.
(Reporting by Robert Muller, editing by William Hardy)