The abrupt deterioration in relations between Greece and Russia has intensified after Athens publicly accused Moscow of attempting to bribe state officials and meddle in the country’s internal affairs.
Dispensing with diplomatic niceties, the foreign ministry angrily rebuked Russia for expelling two Greek envoys on Monday, calling the action “arbitrary and vengeful”.
Moscow announced the move weeks after Athens banned four Russian diplomats after accusing them of fomenting opposition to a landmark , opening up the possibility of eventual Nato membership for Skopje.
Athens hit back on Friday, saying the reasoning behind the expulsions could not be compared. “The decision by the Russian foreign ministry was not based on evidence, as was that of the Greek side, [which cited] specific evidence of illegal and irregular activity by Russian officials and citizens,” the ministry declared in an unusually long and caustic statement.
“We want to remind our Russian friends that no country in the world would tolerate attempts to a) bribe state officials b) undermine its foreign policy and c) interfere in its internal affairs.”
Athens also rejected requests for entry visas from Russian Orthodox clerics heading for northern Greece’s all-male monastic republic of Mount Athos.
The community is alleged to be a “den of spies”, with reports that Moscow has turned the Holy Mount – widely seen as the spiritual centre of Orthodoxy – into an intelligence-gathering operation with extensive funding of monasteries across the peninsula. Earlier this week, Moscow’s foreign ministry said it had demanded explanations as to why the visas had been turned down.
Russia, which has long viewed the Balkans as being , has openly voiced opposition to Macedonia joining Nato. But the extent to which it has tried to whip up dissent against the deal – by which Greece would lift its veto over Macedonian membership once the state adopts a new name – has alarmed Athens. Reports have abounded of Russian agents allegedly attempting to bribe senior Greek intelligence and military offices in an attempt to foster opposition to the agreement.
Russian diplomats have similarly been accused by Greece of attempting to fund far-right nationalist groups through cultural associations established under the guise of promoting the two countries’ shared Orthodox religious heritage.
Greek-Russian émigrés, who settled in areas close to the strategic Aegean port of Alexandroupolis following the collapse of the Soviet Union, have reputedly also received funds to help foment protests against the accord. The deal will be put to a public referendum in Macedonia in September and has yet to be ratified by both states.
The row has fast eroded any pretence of friendship between the two nations, despite traditionally strong ties.
Greece’s leftist-led coalition, which views the deal – painstakingly put together after years of talks – as a major foreign policy victory, vowed to respond to what it described as “the arbitrary measures taken by the leadership of the Russian foreign ministry”.
“It is obvious there are some Russians, fortunately few, who think they can operate in Greece without respecting laws and regulations, and even make threats,” the ministry said.
“The friendship between Greece and Russia dictates that such mindsets should be abandoned, and not the other way around.”
سایت تابناک از انتشار نظرات حاوی توهین و افترا و نوشته شده با حروف لاتین (فینگیلیش) معذور است.