Russia won’t comment on aid to Greece ahead of Tsipras visit

A top Russian official won’t say whether his country is going to lend money to Greece, ahead of a meeting between the Greek and Russian leaders on Friday.

Greece is at an impasse in talks with its creditors to get more loans. Without the aid, it could default on a debt repayment of 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) on June 30.

While his government is locked in those talks, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is traveling to Russia, his second visit since April, to meet President Vladimir Putin. Tsipras’ visit has given rise to speculation that the Greeks could be seeking Russian loans.

Tsipras is traveling with four cabinet ministers and is due to arrive Thursday and stay in St. Petersburg until late Friday, when he will meet Putin.

Asked by The Associated Press whether Russia is going to offer Greece money, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said he “cannot comment on specific decisions.”

The Greek economy has also been hit by Russias EU food imports ban, robbing it of millions of euros in agricultural exports, and although the Kremlin has indicated that it could relax the restrictions on Greece, there has been no decision to do so.

Speaking with the AP on the sidelines of an investment forum in St. Petersburg, Dvorkovich said there is nothing surprising that the new Greek leader travels to Russia so often because Moscow and Athens “have both good political dialogue and specific investment projects and trade opportunities.”

But he added that the visit could be interpreted as a message to Greeces creditors in Europe.

“For Europe it’s also a signal from the Greek government that they are open to cooperation with any party,” he said.

Greece’s sudden rapprochement with Russia has given rise to speculation that Moscow might be using Greece and other countries to get a voice on its side when the EU meets to discuss whether to prolong the sanctions against Russia.

Dvorkovich said he hopes that Greece, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other nations could help Russia in the EU as he expects they “will be pushing politicians on both sides to gradually lift the sanctions.”