Greece lashes out at Russia's expulsion of Greek diplomats

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Greece lashed out Friday at Russia's expulsion of Greek diplomats from Moscow this week, as a spat between the two traditionally friendly countries grew more acrimonious.

The foreign ministry issued a statement describing the Russian move as "arbitrary and vengeful, and not based on any evidence."

Russia said Monday it was responding quid pro quo to Greece's expulsion of two Russian diplomats last month, which it described as "unfriendly actions." Athens expelled the two, who were based at the Russian Embassy, in July amid allegations they helped fund protests against a deal between Greece and its northern neighbor Macedonia that would pave the way for Macedonia to join NATO.

Russia has strongly opposed NATO expansion to countries that once were under Moscow's influence.

"The decision by the Russian Foreign Ministry was not based on evidence, as was that of the Greek side," the statement said, adding Athens had acted based on "specific evidence of illegal and irregular activity by Russian officials and citizens" in Greece in expelling the Russian diplomats.

The ministry said it "would like to remind our friends the Russians that no country in the world would tolerate attempts a) to buy off state officials, b) undermine foreign policy, and c) intervene in the country's internal affairs."

The ministry said Greece would respond "with patience and sobriety" to what it described as "the arbitrary measures taken by the leadership of the Russian Foreign Ministry." It did not elaborate.

Under the deal signed earlier this year between Greece and Macedonia, Athens is dropping its objections to its northern neighbor joining NATO and the European Union, in return for Macedonia changing its name to North Macedonia.

The agreement, which has been signed but still faces ratification in the two countries to take effect, would settle a decades-old dispute with Greece, which maintained that use of the term "Macedonia" harbored territorial aspirations on its own northern province of the same name.

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