Greece Readies for Putin Visit, Russian Minister, Business Entourage

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras enter a hall for their talks at the St. Petersburg International Investment Forum in St.Petersburg, Russia, Friday, June 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

ATHENS – Russian President Vladimir Putin, with top ministers in tow, will be in Greece for a two-day visit next week to discuss business ventures.

Putin is due to meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, leader of the embattled Radical Left SYRIZA, and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, from the rival New Democracy Conservatives, who has only a symbolic role.

It will be the first visit Putin has made to Athens in nine years and he will bring with him a delegation of business leaders, Kathimerini said, including those who want to invest in Greece just when the country needs it most during a crushing economic crisis.

Gazprom Chairman Alexey Miller and Russian Railways CEO Oleg Belozerov will lead the business group as Greece has moved closer to Russia over energy deals and is looking to privatize the country’s underperforming rail system.

High on the business agenda is the promotion of a new conduit for the transmission of Russian natural gas via Bulgaria and Greece, including the utilization of the plan for the Interconnector Greece-Italy (IGI) pipeline. Talks between Russian, Greek and Italian officials were scheduled for May 24, just ahead of Putin’s visit.

Russian companies have also shown interest in investing in Greece’s major utility, the Public Power Corporation (PPC), which is struggling with hundreds of millions of euros in unpaid bills with customers unable to meet their obligations.

A cross-cultural series of exchanges are taking place between the two countries through 2016, which has been designated as the Year of Greece in Russia, and Year of Russia in Greece.

This year also marks the millennial anniversary of the first Russian settlement in the monastic community of Mount Athos.

Putin is expected to visit Aghios Panteleimonas, an Eastern Orthodox monastery also known as “the Russian monastery” (Rossikon), on May 28. The newspaper said he would be accompanied by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.

According to sources, the two states are likely to sign a political declaration on safeguarding peace and friendship between the people in the broader region. Greece’s unreserved adoption of a recent decision by NATO powers to engage in a massive buildup on Russia’s borders is said to have caused some disappointment in Moscow.