News

Greece: Russians expelled over cash-for-protests allegation

Greece: Russians expelled over cash-for-protests allegation
World
THESSALONIKI, Greece -- Greece has moved to expel two Russian diplomats accused of supplying funds to protest groups opposing a deal that would end Greece s longstanding name dispute with neighbouring Macedonia, a Greek official said Thursday.

The expulsions were confirmed the day after NATO formally invited Macedonia to join the western military alliance pending the agreement s successful completion. Moscow opposes any expansion of NATO, particularly if it involves nations Russia sees as within its natural sphere of influence.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Greek reporters in Brussels after a NATO summit ended Thursday that he was obliged "to defend the national sovereignty" of Greece, but did not refer to Russia or the expulsions directly.

"We seek good relations with most countries -- not only the ones in our neighbourhood," Tsipras said. "But we do demand that all countries respect our international legitimacy and national sovereignty."

The government was compelled to act after receiving evidence of "specific actions," the official said. Greece also blocked other Russian officials from entering the country, he said.

It was not clear if the Russian diplomats have departed or are preparing to leave.

The United States welcomed the Greek action. In a message posted on Twitter, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: "We support Greece defending its sovereignty. Russia must end its destabilizing behaviour."

The deal to end the name dispute foresees Macedonia renamed as North Macedonia in exchange for Greece dropping objections to its northern neighbour joining NATO and the European Union.

A Russian diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly dismissed as "nonsense" allegations that Russian diplomats were involved in undermining Greek public support for the Macedonia deal.

In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry took a careful stance.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that diplomatic expulsions typically bring a tit-for-tat response, but underlined the importance of Russia-Greece ties.

The agreement between Greece and its small northern neighbour still faces several hurdles -- including constitutional changes and a referendum in Macedonia -- before it becomes final.

Protests against the agreement have been held in both countries, backed by the political opposition.

Igor Pshenichnikov, an expert at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, a government-funded think-tank, alleged the Greek authorities acted "under the pressure of their advisers from Brussels and Washington."

In remarks carried by the Tass news agency, he described the move as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras "gift for the NATO summit."

Russia has tried to prevent some countries from joining NATO, including historic Slavic ally Montenegro. The Balkan country became NATO s 29th member a year ago.

------

Menelaos Hadjicostis reported from Nicosia, Cyprus. Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report.
Read more on CTVnews
News Topics :
Similar Articles :
World
ATHENS, Greece Greece s left wing prime minister narrowly won a confidence vote in parliament late Wednesday days after the governing coalition he leads collapsed over an agreement to end...
World
MOSCOW Russia stepped up its criticism of Greece over the expulsion of two of its diplomats, accusing the Greek government Wednesday of participating in dirty provocations around Macedonia s...
World
A Greek Russian billionaire, a former member of the Russian Duma and the owner of a professional Greek soccer team, Savvidis has moved seamlessly between the sporting worlds of both countries....
World
ATHENS, GREECE—Greece and Macedonia reached an agreement Tuesday to end a bitter 27 year name dispute that had kept the smaller and younger country out of international institutions such as NATO,...
Top Stories
Bloomberg — The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia reached a preliminary deal with neighbouring Greece to end a decades long dispute over its name, unblocking its path to joining the European...