Tensions between Athens and Moscow over the expulsion last week of Russian diplomats escalated further on Friday after the Greek ambassador in Moscow, Andreas Friganas, was summoned by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which expressed its “decisive protest against continued anti-Russian statements by the Greek side.”
Diplomatic sources in Athens said the summons was a “low-key” demarche concerning the statements made by the Greek Foreign Ministry in response to comments by the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, who accused Athens of taking part in “dirty provocations” against Russia, to which Athens responded that “the constant disrespect for Greece must stop.”
Russian Ambassador to Greece Andrey Maslov weighed in on the issue, telling Sputnik that Zakharova’s comments were “correct and balanced,” while the Greek Foreign Ministry’s reaction was “excessive.”
For its part Athens is reportedly opening up all available channels of communication with Moscow in a bid to defuse mounting tensions. And with the government seeking to make clear that the issue has ended and that it wants to restore traditionally strong ties, diplomatic sources said on Friday that both sides are in close contact since the crisis began and that third parties are mediating to bring an end to the spat.
Commentators say a litmus test of Russia’s intentions will be the measures Moscow intends to announce in response to the expulsion of the two diplomats and the barring of entry to two Russian nationals.
The Greek government has accused all four of using bribes or their influence to whip up opposition to last month’s name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which paved the way for accession talks to begin between Skopje and NATO – something that Moscow fiercely opposes.
According to the initial estimates of experienced diplomats, Moscow’s delay in announcing what measures it will take in response could suggest that Russia wants to bring the tension down a notch.
However, analysts say that no one is under the delusion that there will be no response from Moscow, if only to flex its muscles. The question is whether Russia wants to go one better that Greece in its response.