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Ukrainian soldiers sit on top of armoured personnel carriers in Kramatorsk Reuters

Corporate lobbyists warning against imposing tougher sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis are have made their case to the European Union ahead of crisis talks over Ukraine.

Foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU will meet to discuss the escalating crisis in Ukraine's eastern cities, where a number of pro-Russian militias have taken over government buildings and seized Ukrainian military vehicles.

However, there will be a fifth party in the room at Geneva, if not physically then at least in spirit.

The lobbying pack is being led by BP, the oil major with the biggest exposure to Russia in the form of its near 20% stake in Kremlin's oil giant Rosneft.

Chief exec Bob Dudley's reassurances to investors have gotten louder as the Ukraine crisis has rumbled on.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow earlier, Dudley said BP's investments were as strong as ever.

"We are rock solid with our investments in Rosneft and (we) will stand by our investments. For us it's business as usual," he said.

BP is leading the charge of corporate companies calling on the British government to hold off on tougher sanctions against Moscow, amid concerns that the Kremlin will retaliate with measures against European businesses.

According to a report in the Financial Times, German and Italian energy firms are also pressing their governments to seriously consider their exposure to Russia when advising the EU on its negotiating position. Europe relies on Russia for around a third of its gas needs, while 40% of that is imported via Ukrainian pipelines.

The deep interdependency between Europe and Russia has been reflected in EU leaders' cautious tone ahead of the talks, especially compared with the bellicose rhetoric coming out of Washington.

Yet, despite the apparent enthusiasm for deeper economic sanctions against whole sectors of the Russian economy among the American political class, the US business lobby has been decidedly more cautious in advance of the talks.

However, the admission by Vladimir Putin that Russian troops were deployed to Crimea to secure the referendum sounds an ominous note, given the current events in eastern Ukraine. It will be clear soon enough just how much the West is prepared to jeopardise its businesses in order to protect Kiev's territorial integrity.