Tensions between Athens and Moscow over a diplomatic spat escalated further on Friday when the Greek Foreign Ministry issued a strongly worded statement in response to Russia’s decision to expel two Greek Embassy staff from Moscow, calling it an “arbitrary” and “retaliatory” move and accusing Moscow of being Turkey’s “comrade in arms.”
Noting that Greece’s decision to expel two Russian diplomats from Athens in July had been based on “specific evidence of illegal and irregular activities of Russian officials and citizens within Greece,” the ministry said Russia’s move had no such evidence to back it up.
Greece is a “peace-loving country with a multidimensional, independent democratic foreign policy,” the ministry said in the statement titled “Putting national interest first: Soberly and firmly.”
The country is a “sovereign state” which “demands respect and relations based on equality from all countries,” it added.
“Since it began fighting as a comrade in arms with Turkey, providing it with a number of facilitations in the security sector, [Russia] appears to be steadily distancing itself from positions befitting the level of friendship and cooperation that has characterized Greek-Russian relations for the past 190 years,” the ministry said. “It appears not to understand that Greece has its own interests and criteria in international politics.”
The statement repeated that Athens resorted to action against Russian diplomats “only after documenting tangible incriminating evidence,” referring to “attempts to a) bribe state officials, b) undermine its foreign policy, and c) interfere in… internal affairs.”
“It is obvious that there are some Russians – fortunately few – who think they can operate in Greece without respecting laws and regulations, and even make threats,” the statement continues.
“Such a case is the effort made to impose the presence of the ‘Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society’ in Greece, an organization created by the czars’ secret services in the 19th century with a view to de-Hellenize the patriarchates of the Middle East,” it added.
Greece will respond to Moscow’s move “with forbearance and sobriety,” the ministry said.
On Monday, Russia said it was responding in kind to what it called an unfriendly decision by Athens to expel two Russian diplomats in July.
Two Greek Embassy staff were ordered to leave Russia and the director of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias’s political bureau, Giorgos Sakellariou, was barred from the country.