What could cause the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Greece :: Policy :: RBC

Athens will send the Russian diplomats over alleged attempts made by them to interfere in the Affairs of Greece and to oppose the agreement on the new name Republic of Macedonia. Russia will respond with a mirror, but the crisis would be quickly overcome

Alexis Tsipras

(Photo: Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters)

Expulsion from Greece

The Greek government decided to expel two Russian diplomats and to prohibit entry into Greece still two Russians, reported on Wednesday, July 11, the newspaper Kathimerini, citing a senior source in the foreign policy circles.

According to interlocutors of the edition, Athens accuses Russian diplomats of meddling in internal Affairs, illegal actions against national security, and attempts to gather information, as well as in failed attempts to bribe Greek officials. The sources said that Moscow is pursuing “multiple and coordinated” action to strengthen its influence in Greece. The material of the newspaper was called only one name — the employee of the Russian Embassy Victor Yakovlev, information about the other diplomats are not given.

The Russian foreign Ministry official declined to comment. However a Russian diplomatic source told RBC that in response to the actions of the Greek side will follow the mirror as it usually happens in the case of the expulsion of diplomats. In the Greek foreign Ministry declined to comment. Greece wants good relations with all States, but does not consider it possible to agree with the behavior “that does not respect international law and the Greek state”, commented on the expulsion of the Russians, the official representative of the Cabinet of Ministers of Greece Dimitris Tzanakopoulos. Had taken all the necessary measures, he said (quoted by Kathimerini).

The Macedonian question

Expelled Russian diplomats tried to influence local authorities and representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church, writes Kathimerini, citing its own sources. According to interlocutors of the edition, Russia tried to intervene in such sensitive issues of Greek internal policy, as the agreement between Greece and Macedonia about the name of the latter.

That is regarded as undesirable of diplomatic activity could be associated with attempts to prevent the conclusion of an agreement about the name of Macedonia, said Greek diplomatic source to Reuters. He told the news Agency that Greece 6 July warned the Russian authorities about the undesirable behavior of four diplomats, and on Friday the question was raised officially, and diplomats were given time to leave the country, according to the Agency. The same interviewee said that the employees of the Russian Embassy were involved in the rallies against the agreement.

Greek Prime Minister demanded that Britain return the marbles of the Parthenon

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In June the Prime Ministers of Greece and Macedonia Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev have agreed to end the dispute about the name Macedonia, which lasted almost 30 years, since the collapse of Yugoslavia. Athens did not like the name “Republic of Macedonia” as the toponym “Macedonia” geographically distributed, not only in Vardar Macedonia (98% of the territory coincides with the boundaries of the modern state of Macedonia), but also in the Greek Aegean Macedonia and Pirin Macedonia in Bulgaria. According to the Greek authorities, it could give the Macedonians a reason to claim Greek territory and on cultural heritage. Hard position of Greece forced the Macedonian authorities to join the UN under the name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. Due to the fact that Macedonia continued to use a name which is not liked by the Greeks, Athens has blocked its accession to NATO.

17 Jun Zaev and Tsipras have signed an agreement under which the new name of the Balkan country is “Northern Republic of Macedonia”. On June 20 the document was ratified by the Parliament in Skopje. Autumn in Macedonia held a referendum on the approval of the new name and the elections to the Parliament.

And in Greece, and in Macedonia the agreement was welcomed by part of political forces. In Macedonia, the camp of dissatisfied led by President Gjorge Ivanov, who belongs to nationalist party the “Internal Macedonian revolutionary organization — Democratic party for Macedonian national unity”, which has consistently opposed concessions to Greece.

As the new name of Macedonia provoked a crisis in the two countries

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In Greece against the agreement supports the opposition party “New democracy”, inter-state agreements has provoked protests. Recent demonstrations in the country were held July 2 in Athens and Thessaloniki; however, they were few, says Kathimerini. The previous event in Athens, on 27 June, was bigger — it was attended by 2.5 thousand.

The Embassy of Greece in Moscow

(Photo: Artyom Geodakyan / TASS)

Consequences for relations with Russia

The fact that the decision of a question with the name of Macedonia will open the membership in NATO, confirmed on 10 July the Secretary General of the Alliance Jens Stoltenberg. On July 11, the leaders of the 29 member countries of the Alliance officially invited the country to join NATO. “We agreed to invite Skopje to begin accession negotiations”, — said Stoltenberg. According to him, the process will take up to a year and a half.

Russian officials have repeatedly pointed to the fact that another expansion of NATO and the infrastructure unit will be perceived negatively. “Of course, we won’t drop nuclear bombs <…> As I said, every country has the right to make decisions and make their mistakes”, commented the possible accession of Macedonia into a military Alliance, Russia’s permanent representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov. “There are errors and mistakes. There are mistakes that have consequences,” he warned (quoted by “RIA Novosti”).

Sources, Kathimerini reported on the expulsion of Russian diplomats, said that other members of the Russian Embassy of Athens, no complaints. In the spring of this year, Greece has refused to expel Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK on the “case Skrypalia”, Macedonia then sent one, even though the country is not in the EU.

The scandal with the expulsion of diplomats erupted at a time when relations between Russia and Greece were already moving “downward trajectory”, stated in a conversation with RBC, head of sector for European studies at IMEMO, Russian Academy of Sciences Yuri Kvashnin. After coming to power of the leader of the party SYRIZA Alexis Tsipras Moscow and Athens was swept by euphoria, the expert reminded: “Held a series of high level visits, made loud statements about the prospects of strengthening ties.” Ultimately, however, hopes were not justified, says Kvashnin, and “serious progress in the Russian-Greek direction has not happened.” “Greece has moved to strengthen energy partnership with Cyprus and Israel, also in Athens has increased the concern about the rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara,” — said the expert.

Russia is not the first time accused of attempts to destabilize the situation in the Balkans. In the fall of 2016 in Montenegro was arrested by the Russians, which local law enforcement officers accused of coup attempt. However, another incident on the reputation of Russia in the Balkans in General will not be affected, says a leading researcher of the RAS Institute of Europe, Pavel Kandel. “This is local episode associated with the specific circumstances”, — the expert told RBC.

The representative of the Russian Embassy in Greece, refused to comment on the situation with expulsion of diplomats, assured RBC that continues preparations for the visit of Minister of foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov to the country in the fall.

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