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Greece decides to expel Russian diplomats

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The Greek government has decided to expel two Russian diplomats, and ban the entry into Greece of two more, accusing them of intrusion into domestic affairs and illegal acts against Greece’s national security, Kathimerini (Greece) has learned.

More specifically, Athens is accusing the Russian diplomats of efforts to extract and circulate information, and to bribe Greek state operatives, which have failed.

The case brings to the forefront the tension that seems to have been brewing between Athens and Moscow over the last two years, for reasons that have to do with regional security.

According to high-level Greek diplomatic sources, Athens is calling for the immediate expulsion of two personnel, including the Russian Embassy official Victor Yakovlev, and the expulsion of two more.

The same sources note that the initiative follows numerous coordinated efforts to expand Russian influence in Greece including, among others, the activities of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society.

Despite this latest development, the same sources note that Greece continues, in line with its long-standing policy, to want good cooperative relations with Russia and to promote friendship between the two peoples, but they add that this can only be the case if both countries respect each other’s sovereignty.

They also point to the careful stance Greece took in the Skripal affair when it did not follow other Western countries that expelled Russian diplomats, a position that was welcomed by Moscow.

The same sources note that despite the efforts by the Greek government to keep relations with Russia on a good level, lately various circles that are connected to Russian interests have been meddling in Greek domestic affairs.

Through monetary rewards they are trying to influence municipalities, metropolitans in the Greek Orthodox hierarchy, and to gain influence in Mount Athos.

They point to the effort by Russia to intervene in a sensitive domestic issue like the agreement between Greece and FYROM over the name and by doing so negatively affect Greece’s role in the Balkans.

They add that the decision for the expulsions is confined to the specific four persons, and does not change the broader good intentions of Greece toward Russia.

They add that any “responsive moves” by Moscow will only lead to further deterioration of relations. At the same time they point to the fact that no member of the Greek diplomatic and consular services in Russia has behaved outside the strict lines of their mission.

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According to Kathimerini publication, Russian diplomats supposedly tried to obtain certain information and bribe Greek officials, but failed. In addition, Athens has questions to the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society, reported Pravda.ru (Russia).

Viktor Yakovlev, an officer with the Russian diplomatic mission, is one of the diplomats, whom Greece intends to expel, although it remains unknown what position Yakovlev takes.

The latest move of the Greek administration may escalate tensions in the relations between Russia and Greece. The relationship between the two countries, the newspaper said, has been worsening during the recent two years because of Russia's attempts to undermine Greece's national security.

According to high-ranking Greek diplomatic sources, the decision to expel several Russian diplomats from Greece also came in response to Moscow's coordinated efforts to expand Russia's influence in Greece, especially in relation to the activities of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society. At the same time, Greece continues to strive for good relations with Russia, taking every effort to develop friendship between the two peoples. However, as the authorities point out, this can be possible only if the countries respect each other's sovereignty.

It is worthy of note that Greece did not join other European countries when they followed the call from the UK to expel Russian diplomats after the Salisbury incident. Moscow welcomed the decision of the Greek authorities not to fall under the influence of Rossophobic views based on absolutely unfounded accusations.

According to the Kathimerini newspaper, certain circles that promote Russian interests have been trying to interfere in Greece's internal affairs lately. In particular, the newspaper said, they try to bribe municipalities and win (with the help of money) the support of metropolitans of the Greek Orthodox Church in order to gain influence in Athos (the Holy Mountain).

Greek diplomats also point to Russia's attempt to intervene in the conclusion of the agreement between Greece and Macedonia to rename the former Yugoslav republic, thus affecting the role of Greece in the Balkans. In mid-June, it was decided that Macedonia would be renamed as the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

Greek diplomatic sources said that the decision to expel Russian diplomats would be limited to only four persons. It was also said that the move would not change Greece's global benevolent strategy towards Russia.

Moscow will respond to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Greece, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"According to the established practice, a mirror response shall follow in such cases," representatives of the ministry told reporters Wednesday.

Officials with the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation refrained from commenting on reports of the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Athens.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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Category: Politics
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