With Europe largely reliant on Russia for its gas and energy supplies, and Greece depending on Russian investments during a crushing economic crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos said there should be no sanctions on Russia for invading Crimea and threatening to annex the region.
Venizelos went to Ukraine to meet the new leaders installed after the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, believed responsible for the deaths of nearly 100 protesters who were furious he was pulling the country closer toward Russia and away from the European Union.
He received asylum in Russia and is being backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin whose response to the rebellion was to move troops into the largely-Russian speaking Crimea region amid fears of more military action.
But with EU leaders set to gather in Brussels for an emergency summit about the crisis in Ukraine, Venizelos said there’s practically little they can do except plead with Putin and try to find a diplomatic solution.
Venizelos said Greece doesn’t want economic sanctions on Russia, a close ally. “Sanctions are unfortunately always double-edged, with repercussions for those who suffer them but also for those who impose them,” Venizelos told a press conference in Athens.
“We don’t want sanctions,” he added a few hours before Prime Minister Antonis Samaras boarded a flight to Brussels to meet his EU peers. Greece gets much of its gas from Russia as well, and Samaras recently got Putin to agree to have the Russian company Gazprom lower the prices to help Greek businesses.
Kathimerini said according to sources at the ministry, Athens is reluctant to lose the new momentum in Greek-Russian ties, particularly following the expression of Russian investor interest in the operating arm of the Hellenic Railways Organization, Trainose, and the Thessaloniki Port Authority (OLTH).
There are fears that the possible imposition of sanctions on Russia could put off the potential investors and that it’s more important for Greece to side with Russia than the EU no matter the cost to Ukraine, which isn’t in the bloc.
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