Russia isn’t considering any financial assistance for Greece before a planned visit to Moscow next week by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, according to three Russian government officials with knowledge of the discussions.
Even so, Russia is ready to discuss easing restrictions on Greek food products, which were imposed as part of retaliation for European Union sanctions levied over the conflict in Ukraine, said two of the three officials, who asked not to be identified because the information is confidential.
Russia has been building ties with European countries that may help it scuttle the sanctions. The 28-member bloc will need unanimous approval to prolong measures targeting Russia’s financial and energy industries that expire in July. President Vladimir Putin will discuss the sanctions against Russia at talks next week in Moscow, according to the Kremlin.
The EU’s most-indebted state is locked in negotiations with euro-area countries and the International Monetary Fund over the terms of its 240 billion-euro ($261 billion) rescue. The standoff, which has left Greece dependent on European Central Bank loans, risks leading to a default within weeks and the nation’s potential exit from the euro area.
“Russia-EU relations will be discussed in light of the sanctions policy applied by the EU and the rather cold attitude toward this sanctions policy from Athens,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Friday on a conference call.
Putin and Tsipras will also hold talks on the economic situation in the Balkan country, Peskov said. Greece hasn’t yet asked Russia for any financial aid, he said. Russia would consider a request from Greece, if it’s made, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said in an interview in February.
Greece opposes EU sanctions imposed against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, Tsipras reiterated March 31, denouncing the approach as “senseless” and calling for a negotiated solution.
The government in Athens is hopeful that Russia will lift its ban on Greek agricultural products, according to Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis.
Russia is considering ways for how to do this without formally exempting Greece from the EU-wide ban, one of the officials said. Among the options is to allow Greek companies to export food to Russia if they form joint ventures with Russian partners, the official said. Another possibility is to package food products in Russia using raw ingredients supplied from Greece and sell them as domestically produced goods, according to the official.