ATHENS – Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it will retaliate after Greece expelled two diplomats that Athens said were trying to undermine a deal to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and open the door for its entry into NATO.
The agreement anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras will let FYROM be called North Macedonia, giving away the name of the ancient abutting Greek province of Macedonia, and also pave for the way for European Union hopes.
The deal was brokered with the help of United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer who had failed for two decades to find a solution but accelerated the talks earlier this year amid speculation the United States wanted to get FYROM into NATO as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans.
Greece also said it would ban entry for two other diplomats over the issue, said Kathimerini, and the Russian RIA news agency said two Greek diplomats would be tossed out of Moscow in response, bringing a chill in relations between the countries after Tsipras, a former Communist Youth leader, had tried to woo Russian President Vladimir Putin’s help during an economic crisis.
Kathimerini said the Greek government, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) that have a far right stance, accused the Russian diplomats of circulating misinformation and trying to bribe state officials.
The paper said it was told by high-level Greek diplomatic sources it didn’t identify that one of the diplomats at the Russian Embassy being expelled is Victor Yakovlev.
The report said Greece also believed Russia was trying to expand its influence in Greece work with the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society.
The imbroglio was said, however, not to have interfered with otherwise good relations between the countries if you don’t count Russia trying to destabilize Greece and meddle in politics and domestic affairs in Greece. Greece did not, as other countries did, expel Russian diplomats after Russia was accused of trying to poison one of its former spies now living in London.
The paper said Russia is trying to pay off officials in cities and towns, Metropolitans in the Greek Orthodox Church and trying to get a foothold on the famed Mt. Athos.