Defense benefits deal to be resolved?

The Defense Ministry yesterday confirmed that $73 million supposed to be sent to Greece from Russia following Athens’s purchase of the Tor-M1 air defense system in 1999 had not come. In a detailed announcement, the ministry said it had been pressing for the money – a package of offset benefits – to be sent to Greece since October 2001. Kathimerini reported yesterday that New Democracy’s shadow defense minister, Spilios Spiliotopoulos, had tabled a question in Parliament demanding to know what Athens had done since 1999 until a senior Russian defense industry official, Igor Klimov, visited Greece last May. Klimov, acting general director of the Almaz-Antei Concern, and Sergei Shchitko, commercial director of the company’s subsidiary RATEP, were killed in separate attacks by gunmen in Moscow on June 6, 2003. Russian media reported later that a prosecutor found that a former official at the company had deposited $45 million in Montenegro, $12 million in Moscow and the other $16 million in the Cayman Islands, Spiliotopoulos claimed on Monday. The Greek Defense Ministry said a revised deal was signed in June 2003. «Today negotiations are being held with the contractor for the offset benefits to materialize. Athens has already contributed significantly to the probe conducted by the Moscow prosecutor,» it said. It explained that Greek officials had pressed the Russians repeatedly from October 2001 and that the issue was raised during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Greece in December 2001.