BRUSSELS ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, said on Thursday it opposed sanctions and that the EU steel industry was lobbying the European Union not to intensify measures against Russia over its actions in neighboring Ukraine.
The West has to date focused on individuals and a handful of companies in protest over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, but has threatened to target key sectors such as mining and gas if the Kremlin disrupts Ukrainian elections later this month.
"Our company is not in favor of economic sanctions," Robrecht Himpe, ArcelorMittal Europe's head of business optimization told Reuters, adding that the industry was lobbying against them.
ArcelorMittal said that, as a company, it had not made any representations to governments or government officials over Russian sanctions.
"We have not seen cases where sanctions bring us forward. There is a risk they can snowball and a risk that the other side will fire back. We depend on Russia for iron ore, coal and gas."
Himpe was referring to the reliance of Europe in general on Russian supplies. ArcelorMittal says it is not dependent on Russian resources.
Moscow could easily hurt the European Union back, given that it supplies the bloc with about a third of its gas, with about half of that routed through Ukraine.
ArcelorMittal, which makes about 6 percent of world steel, has a large plant in eastern Ukraine that has seen output shrink this year and has had to divert more exports to the Middle East as Russian demand declines.
Himpe, who became the president of European steel association EUROFER on Thursday, said steel trade flows into Russia from Ukraine had not been disrupted.
The crisis has caused the International Monetary Fund to cut its 2014 growth forecast for Russia to 0.2 percent from 1.3 percent.[ID:nL6N0NM370] The fund said sanctions over Ukraine are scaring off investors.
ArcelorMittal has meanwhile trimmed its expectations for steel consumption in all the former Soviet states to between a contraction of 2 percent and zero. It had previously forecast expansion of 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent.
Russia, the world's fifth largest steel producer, only takes up about 2 percent of ArcelorMittal's steel, but its weakness removes a source of expected growth for the company.
(Editing by Keiron Henderson)
(This story correct to show that steel industry not ArcelorMittal is lobbying)