ATHENS – Despite a fervent plea to the Greek Parliament from President Volodomyr Zelensky – who cited ethnic Greeks in his country besieged too by the Russian invasion – Greece won’t send Ukraine any more weapons.
Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos rejected the call for more military gear among other aid because he said it would weaken Greece’s defenses during a time when there is still tension with Turkey, said EURACTIV.
A parade of Turkish fighter jets has regularly been violating Greek airspace with no intervention from NATO, the defense alliance to which both belong, and as the United States has been tilting more toward appeasing Turkey, critics said.
Panagiotopoulos said Greek islands especially need a bulwark against the possibility of Turkey making a move, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having said he covets return of some islands ceded to Greece in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.
Greece had sent military gear to Ukraine in the initial stages of the invasion as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis vowed “full solidarity,” but has since backed off , drawing the line on more weapons.
“The defense equipment we sent to Ukraine came from our stocks. There is no issue of sending more,” he told Greek lawmakers in a parliamentary discussion after Zelensky, in an impassioned address, recalled Greece’s Freedom or Death battlecry during its fight for independence from the Ottoman Empire 200 years ago.
The Greek government has already sent to Ukraine two C-130 transport aircraft loaded with military aid, such as Kalashnikov rifles and portable rocket launchers but Zelensky said more is needed.
He pointed to the southern port city of Mariupol, home to some 150,000 ethnic Greeks, that has been under siege for weeks, the mayor saying more than 10,000 civilians have been killed by Russian shelling and attacks, lying dead in the streets.
Greece’s changed stance is backed by 66 percent of Greeks who don’t want more weapons sent to Ukraine, said a poll done by MEGA TV, with Greece having a hard-core element of Russian sympathizers.
Panagiotopoulos also referred to the relations with Turkey, saying, “This is not the best time to talk against Turkey in NATO because the allies want to ensure that Turkey remains attached to NATO.”
That’s despite Turkey buying S-400 missile defense systems from Russia that undermine NATO and could be used against Greece in a conflict, Turkey continuing to send fighter jets over Greek waters and islands.