Athens accused Russia of meddling in Greece’s domestic affairs.

According to Greece, Russia tried to foment the opposition in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to undermine a deal between Athens and the Balkan country. However, the deal was brokered and ended a diplomatic standoff over its name. Macedonia will change its name into Republic of North Macedonia. The deal paved the way for an invitation to the Balkan country to join NATO.

On July 13, Russia decided to summon the Greek Ambassador to Russia Andreas Fryganas.

The Russian MFA commented: “Obviously, Washington stands behind this anti-Russia decision by the Greek Government that was timed to the opening of the NATO summit and was openly supported by a State Department statement.”

(Mid.ru, July 13, 2018)

Igor Pshenichnikov, expert for the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, stated:

“It is clear that Greece’s authorities made the decision to expel Russian diplomatic staff members under the pressure of their advisers from Brussels and Washington. This is a gift that [Greek Prime Minister] Alexis Tsipras made for the NATO summit… Any excuse can be found, and it is not worth talking about. May it weigh on the conscience of Greece’s current authorities… Of course, it is being done for a reason. Bad relations with Russia are a condition for Tsipras’ good relations with Washington and Brussels. This is obvious.”

(Tass.com, July 12, 2018)

Senator Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chair, of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee chided the Greek government for its handling of the affair: “If Greece [were] a friendly country, it would simply have invited the [Russian] ambassador and requested that they [the diplomats] leave, without any noise and attracting media attention. Then, there probably would have been no reciprocal measures. These things happen, if the country is friendly, when work mistakes are admitted by diplomats.”

He noted that following the Greek announcement doubt arises about its friendliness towards Russia.

“When dealing with such a declaration, serious doubt arises whether the country is friendly or is just following in the wake of all the anti-Russian campaigns. The Greeks did not proceed entirely correctly, it’s a mistake”, said the senator.

(Ria.ru, July 11, 2018)

Senator Andrey Klimov said that Russia never viewed Greece as its partner or ally in Europe: “Greece is part of NATO, and that alone will suffice”, explained the senator.

(Ria.ru, July 11, 2018)

Andrey Kortunov, Russian Council for International Affairs CEO:

“The way it was presented reflects certain processes in the internal Greek political situation. A fierce struggle is proceeding, and the Russian factor is also present. The current Greek authorities decided to insure themselves, yet the situation resembles more a public relations action for domestic consumption. We do remember that Athens declined, being under London’s pressure, to expel Russian diplomats after the Skripal poisoning, thus it’s not about displaying general Western solidarity. Currently, all the passages about maintaining friendly relations with Russia were made, thus, though Russia will have to reciprocate, this incident will not seriously affect the relations. Both sides are interested in minimizing the negative [effect].”

(t.me/russiancouncil, July 9. 2018)

The Greek newspaper Kathimerini commented:

In a sign that bilateral relations are taking a turn for the worse, Greece’s ambassador in Moscow was summoned on [July 13] by the Russian Foreign Ministry over the expulsion of two Russian diplomats by Athens.

“Furthermore, in what was seen as a response to the US State Department’s support for Greece’s action, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the US of being behind the move… The expulsion of the diplomats, it said, went against the nature of bilateral ties and could cause serious damage.

“However, Greek diplomatic sources were quick to dismiss the Russian accusations against the US as unfounded. ‘Claims of alleged US pressure on Greece are entirely unfounded. The Russians seem to have difficulty understanding that a small state is able to defend its national interests,’ the sources said. ‘They are also having difficulty understanding our country’s right to defend its national interests in the region and keep seeing third countries behind [our actions].’ they added, noting that Greece does not allow third parties to intervene in domestic affairs.”

(Ekathimerini.com, July 14, 2018)