Russia expels Greek diplomats in tit-for-tat move. Writes Paul Antonopoulos
Moscow announced on June 27 the expulsion of eight Greek diplomats in a tit-for-tat move following Greece’s expulsion of Russian diplomats in April. The Greek Ambassador to Russia, Ekaterini Nassika, was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry as the recipient of Moscow’s
protest regarding “the confrontational course of the Greek authorities towards Russia, including the supply of weapons and military equipment to the Kiev regime.”
Although Athens-Moscow relations have been characterized as being multifaceted over time, their transition to a state of “confrontation”, as described by the Russian Foreign Ministry, is due to Greece playing an active role in supplying weapons to Ukraine and being an enthusiastic supporter of anti-Russia sanctions.
The deterioration of relations between the two countries was initiated by Athens. Prior to the war in Ukraine, the ruling New Democracy government spoke of a Greece within an autonomous Europe and the impossibility of isolating Russia from Europe. However, on openly admitted orders from Washington, Athens quickly reversed the surge in strengthening ties between Russia and Greece that was emerging prior to the war.
It is recalled that Athens expelled 12 Russian diplomats following the wave of deportations across Europe following the launch of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Despite initiating this diplomatic crisis, Greece immediately responded to the expulsions, expressing its “deep regret” for Moscow’s decision. Although Athens kept its tones relatively mild, the foreign ministry did say that “there is no basis” for the Russian decision because “as a principle, Greece respects International Law.”
It is difficult for Greece to claim that it is operating within the confines of international law though when it only recently sparked another diplomatic crisis, this time with Iran, by illegally detaining a vessel and confiscating its oil cargo. That was until a Greek court reversed the order. This confiscation, again, was on the very open orders given by the US.
None-the-less, the rift between Moscow and Athens has now deepened even more since the eight Greek diplomats were given expulsion orders. As the Russian Ambassador to Athens, Andrei Maslov, told the Rossiya-24 television station, Greek authorities cut off all contact with the Russian Embassy and the Consulate General in Greece.
At the same time, Maslov warned that “if Russian citizens visit Greece, they must be ready, vigilant, very careful, as there are now many Ukrainian nationalists in Greece. This must be taken into account.” He also advised Russian tourists to be careful, talking about additional major difficulties for visiting Greece because of interruptions in air communication with Russia by Greece.
It is worth noting that the head of the 4th European Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Yuri Pilipson, had recently stated that Greece is no longer a safe country for Russian citizens as there are many reports of discriminatory behavior and aggression directed against them. However, this discriminatory behavior and aggression is not only reduced to Russian citizens, but even Greeks born in Mariupol who express their opposition to Kiev. In one example, a Ukrainian-born Greek woman was threatened to be burned alive by Ukrainian nationalists that are now living in Greece.
In this way, Moscow’s response to Greece’s sanctions is by encouraging Russian tourists to travel elsewhere, particularly Turkey as it has not ended direct flights between the two countries and has a liberal visa process. It is recalled that in 2019, Greece hoped for at least one million tourists from Russia, an endeavour that ultimately failed as only 611,000 arrived.
Russian visitors none-the-less massively contribute to Greece’s tourist-dependent economy. Now Greece misses out on this important source of tourists, something which Turkey will surely gain from, just as it has gained by maintaining a kind-of-balance in its relations with Russia and Ukraine.
So long as Greece continues to maintain an unprovoked hostile position against Russia, Athens will remain disconnected from the ethnic Greek community in Mariupol, believed to number up to 120,000 individuals. Just as Greece backtracked from its claim of espousing European autonomy but quickly followed demands made by Washington against Iran, it has now backed out of its promise to not abandon the Greeks of Mariupol by being hostile against Russia on US orders.
This is a reality that Greece will soon have to face after its continued refusal to acknowledge that actions will have reactions. Just as Iran seized Greek ships in retaliation, Russia expelled Greek diplomats in response, and will unlikely allow the Greek Consulate in Mariupol to reopen until Athens abandons its hostile position against Moscow.
Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst.
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