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Politics

Oikonomou: Greece Is Ready to Protect the Greeks of Ukraine at Any Time

ATHENS – The Greeks of Mariupol are in the heart of the war zone, in very difficult conditions, and Greece stands ready to provide assistance at all times, government spokesperson Yiannis Oikonomou said on Friday in an interview with Open TV.

“Our consulate there is still operating, the Ambassador is also returning to the region. Our consular authorities are in constant contact with the Greek element. The foreign ministry daily communicates with our consular authorities there,” Economou said, while adding that the operation to evacuate Greeks from Mariupol had gone well.

“We are ready at any moment, to the extent that it is possible since we are talking about a war, to do everything that must be done to protect our people and to provide them with any assistance they may want in these exceptionally difficult circumstances that they face,” he said.

He also clarified that no Greek seamen were in any danger at this time.

Regarding relations with Turkey, the spokesperson repeated that channels of communication are always open and that the Greek prime minister is always ready to speak with the Turkish president.

“It is known and very specific what our differences are and how we can seek their resolution. Apart from this, it is also known that [our] country has international treaties, international law and strong alliances on its side. [Our] country has mounted several steps in terms of enhancing its geopolitical imprint in the last two years, with the alliances and agreements we have made, with the strengthening of its deterrent capability – not so that it can behave arrogantly or with revisionism but so that it’s absolutely clear to all sides that it will effectively defend its sovereign rights,” Oikonomou said.

Regarding the decision to send defensive supplies to Ukraine, the spokesperson repeated that this was morally right and imperative for Greece’s interests.

“Methodically…the government’s policy in recent years has led us to not becoming trapped in painful dilemmas. We will continue in this direction as a factor for peace and stability in the wider region, playing a key role in the new architecture of strategic autonomy for Europe and always defending our sovereign rights and national rights,” he said.

Even countries that are traditionally neutral have been clear in condemning Russia’s revisionism, he noted, actively contributing to the support of the people of Ukraine.

“I think Turkey itself has got the messages that these sort of attempts to question international treaties and international law do not go unnoticed and that the civilised world, the western world, our partners in the EU and NATO, are not prepared to tolerate them,” he said, adding that the European side supported Greece when it faced the asymmetrical threat in Evros two years ago.

Greece had done justice to its role with respect to the need for stability, peace and democracy and was now supporting the people whose lives were at riskm and international law, Oikonomou said. This was what it needed to do in order to be able to call on support if it found itself in a similar position in the future. He underlined, however, that people should not be afraid as Greece was not weak and alone, but had “become much stronger”.

With respect to price hikes, he said that targeted actions by the government will be sufficient to mitigate if not entirely eliminate the impact of the war and energy crisis on Greek households and businesses, especially for the most vulnerable.

“We have to be honest with people. There are difficulties – and possibly even worse is to come – and there is no tool or policy or government in the world who could say that the repercussions will be fully countered. In these emergency conditions we have an obligation to do two things: Firstly, to have a relationship of trust with people, to not lie or promise things that can’t be done; and secondly, to not stand idly by.

He said that the government will be ready to announce the precise shape the support measures will take within March, saying these will be targeted and combined with a policy of easing taxes and indirectly increasing income.

Oikonomou also ruled out the possibility of Greek military engagement in Ukraine war, saying that if Greece was asked to contribute support troops pledged under the NATO framework, they would do this from the countries where they were sent, in Romania and Bulgaria, in a support capacity.

“This does not mean that Greek soldiers will fight or that Greek helicopters, planes or anything else will go to the war front,” he added.

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