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Bank of Greece Chief Says SYRIZA Wanted Russia to Print Drachmas

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FILE- Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras. (Photo: Eurokinissi/Giorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS – Bank of Greece Gov. Yannis Stournaras said the then-ruling Radical Left SYRIZA government of former Premier Alexis Tsipras in 2015 reached out to Russian President Vladimir Putin to print drachmas there in case Greece left the Eurozone during furious and failed negotiations with its European creditors.

Stournaras spoke during unveiling of a book focusing on the first six months of Tsipras' coalition government up until July 2015, and especially the combative talks then-finance chief Yanis Varoufakis was conducting with the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM.)

Tsipras vowed to defy the lenders and take Greece out of the Eurozone but after the ECB shut off liquidity, he reneged on his promises and his own anti-austerity referendum and caved in to get a third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros ($94.64 billion.)

In the midst of that, Tsipras was said to be mulling options that would include a return to the drachma and Stournaras said Putin himself told former French President Francois Hollande of the request by the Tsipras government.

Former Parliament president Nikos Voutsis, a top SYRIZA veteran, denied the account and said there was no talk of printing drachmas but it wasn't said if he knew of Putin allegedly talking to Hollande about the idea.

The book, The Last Bluff: How Greece Came Face-to-Face with Financial Catastrophe and the Secret Plan for its Euro Exit" by Brussels-based Greek journalists Viktoria Dendrinou and Eleni Varvitsioti, was presented at an event Oct. 14.

"The SYRIZA government found itself dangerously flirting with a return to the drachma, due to its amateurish negotiations in the first half of 2015," Stournaras charged, in citing a reference to the crisis in a book by Hollande.