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Athens expels Russian diplomats, Moscow mulling retaliation

Diplomatic relations between Greece and Rusia have a taken a sudden turn for the worse, triggered by information about Athens’s intention to expel two Russian diplomats and impose a ban on entering Greece for two others for illegal acts against national security.

According to Russian news agency Interfax, Russia’s foreign ministry has said it will “respond in the same way to the expulsion of the two Russian diplomats.”
Citing top diplomatic sources, Greek newspaper Kathimerini earlier had reported that the measures taken by Athens were a response to illegal actions on Greek soil which were deemed as intervention by a foreign power into internal Greek affairs. According to the report by Kathimerini, the allegation include the attempt by Russian diplomats to gather and dissemination intelligence as well as bribing state officials.

In particular, according to diplomatic sources, Athens has already decided and ordered the immediate expulsion of two people – one being the Russian embassy official Viktor Yakovlev – and a ban on a new entry into the country for two more, who are involved in a number of activities , including intelligence activity (the diplomatic term for gathering and distributing information) against Greece.

Nevertheless, the same sources state that Greece, as has done in the past, still desires to maintain good relations with Russia, to promote the friendship of the two peoples and the cooperation of their governments. However, as they say, this can only be done on the basis of parity and on condition of mutual respect for the sovereignty and independence of our two countries.

Speaking to Greek TV, the Greek government spokesman, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos confirmed measures would be taken against the Russian diplomats, but he did not specify whether the two Russian embassy officials in Athens had already left Greece. Sources say that apart from the two expelled Russian diplomats, the Greek government has taken the decision to ban the entry into the country of two other Russian diplomats.

Unconfirmed information indicates that the two Russian diplomats whom the government spokesman accused of “behaviours that violate international law” are alleged to be involved in funding protests over the FYROM issue. The spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry has neither confirmed nor denied this information.