European Union foreign ministers approved the extension of existing sanctions against Russia on Thursday, winning the support of the new leftist government of Greece, whose position had been in doubt.
The ministers agreed to extend sanctions imposed last year that had been due to expire. They also agreed to list the names of additional people who could be targeted with sanctions when they meet again in February.
In Brussels, EU officials were worried about the stance of Greece, whose new Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, took power on Monday and complained that his government had not been consulted before tighter sanctions were threatened.
However, the new Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias immediately dispelled concerns that Greece would boycott the sanctions.
According to Italy’s foreign minister, Kotzias announced to the meeting: “I am not a Russian puppet.”
Kotzias signed up to a sharply worded statement that declared Moscow responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine, and demanded Russia stops backing separatists.
“We are not against every sanction,” Kotzias said later. “We are in the mainstream, we are not the bad boys.”
Greece, however, asked for a delay of tighter sanctions, along with countries such as Italy and Austria. Great Britain and the Baltic states asked for new sanctions to be imposed quickly.
Thursday’s emergency meeting had been called after rebels started an attack last week, disavowing a five-month-old ceasefire. On Saturday, suspected rebel forces shelled the major port city of Mariupol, killing 30 people. Since then, there have been intense battles along the frontline, although the rebels appear to have held back from an all-out assault on Mariupol.
Greek foreign minister refutes allegations that he supports Russian nationalist who favors “Ukrainian genocide”
According to a recent Financial Times report, the Greek Foreign Minister espouses the fascist views of Russian philosopher and political scientist Aleksandr Dugin. The report says that in April 2013, Nikos Kotzias, who was teaching at the University of Piraeus at the time, had invited Dugin to give a lecture on the political situation in Europe and Russia’s position and role in the region.
“Mr Kotzias — a former Piraeus university professor — has espoused increasingly nationalist positions, developing a relationship with Alexander Dugin, the Russian nationalist philosopher, during several visits to Moscow, according to a colleague who declined to be identified,” the Financial Times report says. And continues:
“Mr. Dugin, who is close to several figures in the Moscow security establishment and last August called for a “genocide” of Ukrainians, was invited by Mr. Kotzias to speak at an event in the Piraeus campus in 2013, where he extolled the role of Orthodox Christianity in uniting Greeks and Russians.”
On his part, Kotzias denied that he invited Dugin to speak at the university and said he was merely the coordinator of the lecture. He also denied all other allegations about his relationship with the Russian nationalist.
The foreign minister’s official reply was:
“In an article in the Financial Times published on January 28, there are unsubstantiated claims of a link between Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Russian professor Aleksandr Dugin. The Article has the bogus claim that Mr. Kotzias had invited Mr. Dugin at an event at the University of Piraeus. As the Piraeus University itself has denied in a separate announcement, Mr. Kotzias never invited Mr. Dugin for the lecture in question and never, as falsely stated in the article, went to Moscow to meet him.
The article states falsely that Mr. Kotzias was asked to comment and he did not respond. Elementary journalistic ethics on the part of the authors of the article requires cross-checking and verification before publication of any unsubstantiated information which, reproduced on the internet and other media, create false impressions.”
Angelos Kotios of the University of Piraeus also issued the following pertaining statement:
With relation to the negative reports referred to a lecture by Professor Aleksandr Dugin at the University of Piraeus and in particular the Department of International and European Studies, as Dean of the Faculty of Economics, Business and International Studies, I would like to clarify the following:
The lecture by Professor Dugin held on 12 April 2013 as part of the course “The Foreign Policy of Russia” with tutor Professor N. Kotzias, and it took place after a proposal of Mr. Dugin himself, via his collaborators, and, therefore, in no case was he invited by Professor Kotzias.
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