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15 August / 2018

On Russian-Greek relations (Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, August 15, 2018)

The attention of the Russian and Greek media, experts, analysts and the public is currently focused on relations between our two countries. Numerous articles by political analysts are being published. Unfortunately, some fake news are being circulated and causing quite a stir. We regularly comment on this, but I would like to touch upon this issue once more today.

We have read the August 10, 2018 comment on the website of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which evaluates the current stage of bilateral relations.

Our partners have demoted bilateral cooperation and relations, which have always been perceived as special and traditionally friendly by Russia, to the level of routine “coexistence”. This decision hardly meets the demands, expectations and wishes of the two nations or the nature of interstate cooperation, as highlighted by an unprecedented degree of top-level and high-level political dialogue and ambitious projects that have been implemented over the past few years. We have always cited the friendly, open and practical nature of Russian-Greek relations as an example for our European partners. The degradation of our cooperation at a time when we celebrate the 190th anniversary of establishing bilateral relations is deplorable, all the more so as Russia played a substantial role in reinstating the independence and state sovereignty of Greece. For their part, scholars from Byzantium and Greece played a major role in asserting the Russian identity. Russia has never meddled in the Greek domestic affairs or its foreign policy. Yet this is how the situation is being portrayed by those who cannot be described as true friends of Greece.

The allegations being voiced by Athens still amount to mere assertions, and they have failed to present us with any evidence whatsoever. Local media outlets launched an unprecedented campaign to discredit our bilateral cultural and humanitarian ties. These indisputably positive contacts that were perceived as nothing but exemplary turned into elements of hybrid war overnight. Various longtime pillars of Russian-Greek relations, including our common religious and historical heritage, mutual sympathy between our nations and the contribution of ethnic diasporas to both countries’ well-being began to be portrayed as suspicious and ill-intentioned. Russia was unjustifiably reproached for infringing upon Greece’s interests in the Balkan region and for undermining the Prespa agreement on the official name of Macedonia. Someone clearly ordered media publications alleging that that Moscow financed large-scale protests in the run-up to the September 2018 Thessaloniki International Fair. The preposterous nature of these publications is obvious, but the scale of the ongoing media campaign is truly staggering.

We have repeatedly stated at all levels that Russia does not side with one party against another. For example Russia’s cooperation with Turkey is not directed against third countries. I am mentioning this as an example because the media has also actively exploited this allegation.

By way of example, it is unacceptable to distort history and to interpret the goals of establishing the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society international public organisation and its activities. Like many other nongovernmental organisations, it implements solely cultural and educational projects and only if our foreign partners are interested in them. Yet this organisation is also being lambasted today.

I would like to note once again that Russia did not initiate the steps that have led to the degradation of Russian-Greek relations. On the contrary, we remain committed to expanding all-round cooperation with Greece. We consider the current situation to be abnormal and temporary, and we hope that it will be resolved soon. We are ready to be patient and act responsibly in the interests of resuming full-fledged cooperation for the benefit of both nations.