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Russian consulate in Thessaloniki Russian consulate in Thessaloniki  (AFP or licensors)

Greece to expel Russian diplomats over 'security'

Greece may take action against several Russian diplomats over suspicions of trying to undermine negotiations underway with Macedonia regarding the proposed name change to North Macedonia.

By John Carr

The Greek government has signalled it’s about to expel two Russian diplomats for supposedly trying to scuttle a recent deal between Greece and neighbouring Macedonia.  The deal could pave the way for Macedonia to join the European Union and Nato.

Diplomatic sources here in Athens quoted by Kathimerini, an influential daily newspaper, said the Russian diplomats in question were cultivating widespread Greek opposition to the agreement in order to prevent it from being ratified in the Greek parliament later this year.  Two more Russian diplomats have reportedly been banned from entering Greece, on the same grounds.

The move came as a surprise, as the leftwing-led government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has so far been the least willing of European governments to oppose Moscow on anything.  And a question mark still hovers over why Tsipras has performed this abrupt about-face. 

What the Russian diplomats are actually supposed to have done was not specified.  But they are suspected of helping organize nationalist demonstrations via social media against the Macedonia deal, which many Greeks oppose on the grounds that the neighbouring country is stealing an ancient Greek name. 

The Greek Orthodox Church is also strongly against the agreement with Macedonia, though there is no evidence so far that Russia’s diplomats have used that channel to try and overturn the deal.

Listen to John Carr's report
11 July 2018, 16:22