ATHENS — He’s not coming to the celebrations of Greece’s 200th Independence Day on March 25 but Russian President Vladimir Putin send congratulations and reiterated what he said is the importance of ties between the countries.
“We attach great importance to relations with Greece, which are based on long-standing friendship as well as cultural and spiritual proximity,” Putin said in a letter President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, said Kathimerini.
Putin said that the Greek and Russian History Year, which coincides with Greece’s bicentennial, “will contribute to the strengthening of mutually beneficial ties between the two countries.”
Forgotten for now during the importance of the day is long-standing tension as well over issues such as Russia seen trying to undermine a deal in which the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA made a deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to rename that country North Macedonia.
That even led to Greece expelling two Russian diplomats and banning two others after accusing them of intervening as Russia tried not to lose interests in the Balkans.
Putin sent Prime Minister Mikhail Mishushtin as his envoy, who will meet Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said Russia’s state-run Sputnik News Agency, and to talk about energy, transport, industry and culture.
Mishustin will be bestowed the City of Athens’ golden medal of honor by Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis.
There will be a flurry of meetings and greetings as Greece greets dignitaries who are coming during the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrations muted because of a limit on public gatherings, even for the parade through Syntagma Square.
Events include meetings of Russian, British and French officials with Mitsotakis and a state dinner by Sakellaropoulou, and will culminate with the military parade.
Mitsotakis will receive Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at Maximos Mansion while Mushustin will be welcomed at Athens International Airport by Finance Minister Christos Staikouras before meeting Mitsotakis.
Prince of Wales Charles and Duchess of Cornwall Camilla will be welcomed by Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias, while French Defense Minister Florence Parly will arrive later, French President Emmanuel Macron not coming.
Mitsotakis and his spouse, Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotaki, will welcome all guests to the newly refurbished National Gallery where he and Culture Minister Lina Mendoni and National Gallery Director Marina Lambraki-Plaka will deliver addresses, followed by a tour of the gallery after that.