NEWS

Putin on business trip

The first visit to Greece by a Russian president began in an especially warm atmosphere yesterday and with the agreement between President Vladimir Putin and his Greek host, Costis Stephanopoulos, to increase cooperation between the two countries in the economic sphere, especially that of energy. The two sides also agreed on ways to deal with Balkan problems and the need for borders to remain unchanged. Now that we are not separated by ideological obstacles, the geopolitical foundations for the relations between Greece and Russia can play the role that they should, Putin said at the start of a three-day official visit. He noted that after Stephanopoulos’s visit to Russia in June 2000, trade between the two countries had increased by 40 percent and cooperation had been achieved in the energy, transport and high technology sectors. Russian companies are ready to take part in the opening up of the energy market and fuel market in Greece, Putin said. He expressed optimism that Greece’s presidency of the EU in 2003 would give new impetus to relations between Russia and the Union. Putin also promised Russia’s help in preparing for the 2004 Olympics. Putin and Stephanopoulos also discussed the issue of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline project, which is designed to link the Bulgarian and Greek ports in order to transfer oil from the Caspian Sea. They stressed the need to push ahead with the project. Putin expressed the hope that Russian companies will not be at a disadvantage when they take part in the Greek defense force’s tenders for military purchases. He noted that The percentage of Russia’s participation in Greece’s arms procurements is quite small. Stephanopoulos noted that relations between Greece and Russia are at a very high level and he lauded cooperation between the two countries in the United Nations and regional organizations. There are no political problems and our opinions usually coincide, he said. Greece and Russia also signed agreements on cooperation between their justice ministries, police, airlines and merchant marine, as well as accords on energy and the creation of cultural centers. Large parts of Athens were cordoned off to allow Putin’s motorcade to move about quickly, forcing many thousands of Athenians into huge traffic jams on secondary streets. This will continue today, with the Russian president due to visit the Acropolis at 9 a.m.; lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square at 11 a.m.; meet with PM Costas Simitis at 11.25; and meet with Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos at 4.45 p.m. in central Athens. Daughter freed. A 47-year-old woman, Eleni Nikolopoulou, allegedly kept locked up by her mother for 30 years in Loutsa, north of Athens, was recovering in an Athens hospital yesterday after being found bedridden and virtually paralyzed on Wednesday. Nikolopoulou’s ordeal was revealed by neighbors who called a private radio station. Police found Nikolopoulou in the basement of a makeshift chapel in the grounds of the home. Neighbors said the woman had developed health problems after her parents broke up a love affair and the young man married another girl.