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Greece Not Safe For Russian Citizens, Putin’s Minister Claims

Greece Russian Citizens
Cordial relations between Greece Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen in a December 2021 meeting, dissolved after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Credit: Greek Prime Minister Press Office

A Russian government official said on Thursday that Greece is no longer a safe haven for its citizens.

The allegation, made by a foreign minister, comes as the Greek government continues to condemn Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine.

In the months that have followed, Greece has sent weapons and other aid to Ukraine, and Greek banks have frozen assets of selective Russian citizens.

Now, foreign minister Yuri Pilipson has been quoted as saying Russia has received reports of discrimination and aggression against its citizens in Greece, according to APA, a news agency in Azerbaijan. It cited reports in Russia’s state-controlled TASS.

Pilipson also alleged Greek officials are disseminating disinformation to media outlets about the war in Ukraine and blocking Russian information sources. Vladimir Putin’s government has long been accused of operating a complex disinformation network.

Pilipson also alleged reports of “beatings, including of children” of Russian citizens in Greece, though he did not provide details or cite specific incidents. Days after the invasion, however, Russia’s embassy in Athens said it received threats against members of its mission following the death of at least ten ethnic Greeks in Mariupol.

The Greek government has been sharply critical of Russia’s invasion from the start. Hours after the February 24th invasion commenced, Greece condemned the “unprecedented” Russian attack on Ukraine which, according to PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, threatens stability in Europe.

However, the two countries also have deep ties—including religious—and Greece has long been a popular destination for Russian tourists and real estate investors.

Greece’s Ties to Russia

Sympathies among many Greeks still lean toward Russia.

In a survey released last month, Greeks and Cypriots were the least likely among Europeans to blame Russia exclusively for the war.

The Europe-wide poll showed that while 54 percent of EU Nations overall strongly agreed that Russia was primarily responsible for the war, just 27 percent of Greeks polled shared the same feeling. It showed that 24 percent of Greeks mostly agreed while 23 percent mostly disagreed and 22 percent totally disagreed.

In Cyprus, 21 percent totally agreed, and 24 percent mostly agreed. Those who mostly disagreed are at 28 percent while those who totally disagreed with the statement comprise 23 percent of the Cypriot votes, according to the tally.

The poll was conducted by Eurostat—the statistical body of the EU.

In late April, Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned Greece that relations between the two nations that “share the same faith” have been “reduced to almost nothing” after Greece’s decision earlier that month to declare twelve Russian officials “persona non-gratae.”

Governments around the world, including Greece, have imposed sweeping sanctions against Russia and its citizens for the invasion. In mid-March, Greece began freezing assets of Russian citizens identified on an international list for sanctions sent to all European Union countries in the wake of the invasion.

Late last month, Athens also said it would send its older weapons to Ukraine after Germany said it would send a fleet of cutting edge infantry fighting vehicles to Greece.

Greece has not totally cut its ties to Russia.

For the month of April, the number of tankers carrying Russian fuel that arrived in Greece reached record-breaking highs, indicating that the country’s waters have become a top destination for transporting Russian fuel.

Arrivals of ships carrying fuel from Russia to Greece doubled in April compared to March, according to a Reuters report at the time.

Last month, nearly twice the number of migrants and refugees entered Greece compared to the previous year, led in large part by the 8,700 Ukrainians fleeing the war. Since the onset of the invasion, Greece has recorded 32,589 Ukrainians arriving at its borders through May 31st, the Ministry of Migration and Asylum announced Tuesday. 

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