Greece and Russia take to the skies

Greece and Russia have agreed to cooperate on the production of a new Russian jet airliner that will compete with models produced by Airbus and Boeing, ministers from both countries said yesterday. Greece’s state-owned defense company, the Hellenic Aerospace Industry, was expected to sign late yesterday an agreement with Russian aircraft manufacturer Irkut Corporation to design the MS-21 aircraft that is scheduled to hit the market in 2014. «The crisis brings along with it higher risks but also new opportunities, new possibilities that open up,» Russian Industry Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters in Athens. «The fact that we are going ahead with our common tasks in new directions means that we have the ability to take advantage of these new opportunities.» Prospects for the sale of the medium-sized Russian airliner, which seats between 150 to 220 passengers, to the Greek and Russian markets are «very good,» added Khristenko. The two countries also agreed to work together in the maintenance of the Beriev firefighting planes that are commonly used in Greece and other Mediterranean countries during the summer months. Hellenic Aerospace will become a center for the maintenance and repair of Beriev BE-200 planes on the world market. «There will be cooperation to create parts for this aircraft and electronics components for other aircraft,» said Development Minister Christos Folias. Greece and Russia have been developing closer ties in recent years, especially in the energy and food sector. Greece is a major buyer of Russian gas and is part of the South Stream pipeline project, a joint venture headed by Russia to bring natural gas to southern Europe. Greece and Russia furthermore plan to set up joint companies to research and produce pharmaceuticals, Folias said.