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Militants Step Up Athens Attacks, Toss Grenade at Russian Embassy

March 22, 2019

ATHENS – With critics saying the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA has emboldened anarchist assaults on a number of targets in Greece’s capital, assailants suspected of belonging to a left-wing militant group threw a hand grenade at the Russian Consulate March 22, causing minor damage and no injuries, Greek authorities said.

Police sent a bomb disposal team to the consulate after cameras showed two people on a motorbike throwing a small object in the early hours of the morning at the fence beside the consulate’s security guard post, reportedly causing minor damage.

Despite the government promising tighter security for embassies after previous attacks, including against those from Germany and Israel, no security guard was at the post at the time, reports said.

Police cordoned off the area around the consulate, located in a suburb north of the city center.

Greece’s counter-terrorism police were investigating the attack that came in the wake of the government trying to repair relations with Moscow after two Russian diplomats last year were expelled after being accused of trying to undermine a deal Greece made to change the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to North Macedonia.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the attack, which it said would not affect “the traditional and inherently long-term friendly relations … with Russia.” it said a thorough investigation would be carried out to catch the perpetrators.

Authorities were examining a motorbike found partially burned in a central Athens neighborhood.

Greece has a long history of small groups that periodically attack symbols of state authority, wealth or foreign diplomacy. They usually plant small explosive devices that don’t cause injuries although a package bomb exploded in a car holding former Premier Lucas Papademos in 2017.

Police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as the investigation was ongoing, said they suspect the attack was carried out by a leftist militant group called the Popular Fighters Group, which had claimed responsibility for a bombing against the offices of SKAI TV and a  newspaper in December.

Authorities were also investigating whether other active militant groups might have been behind the attack as Greece is awash with terror groups and the notorious Rouvikonas group which has vandalized many targets around the capital with none of the ringleaders being apprehended, leading to charges Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is soft on crime.

The Popular Fighters Group, known by its Greek acronym OLA, is considered responsible for several bombings and shootings since it first appeared in 2003, when it fired shots at the offices of Greece’s conservative New Democracy party.

It has also carried out shootings against the residence of the German ambassador in Athens, fired a rocket against the offices of a car dealership and planted bombs outside the offices of Greece’s federation of enterprises, a bank and a courthouse.

None of its attacks have caused any injuries and a SYRIZA minister said the assaults weren’t serious but just political acts.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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