Russian President Vladimir Putin says the leader of Greece did not ask for financial aid during an official visit Wednesday. Putin was speaking to reporters after a bilateral meeting at the Kremlin with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
However, the Russian president said Moscow could provide credits for large joint projects with Greece in the future, such as the planned Turkish Stream, a pipeline carrying natural gas to Europe through Turkey.
“The Greek side has not addressed us with any requests for aid,” he said. “We discussed cooperation in various sectors of the economy, including the possibility of developing major energy projects.”
Putin said the project could earn Greece “millions of euros” every year, which would be beneficial not only for the Greek economy and Athens' Western creditors, but also for fostering closer economic cooperation between Greece and Russia.
There has been speculation that Athens would use its relations with Russia to gain bargaining power in upcoming bailout talks with the European Union.
Creditors want Greece, which will run out of money within a few weeks without aid, to agree to a list of reforms before providing it more rescue loans.
The EU and the U.S. have hit Russia with sanctions over its role in the Ukrainian conflict and diplomats were worried that Greece, an EU member state, might weaken their common stance against Moscow.
No affront to West
Tsipras told reporters that his two-day trip to Moscow should not be interpreted as an affront to the West.
“We respect our obligations in all international organizations,” but it does not mean that Greece should not pursue a foreign policy “to benefit all Greeks,” he added.
Putin also sought to end speculation that Moscow was trying to undermine EU unity on sanctions by boosting economic cooperation with indebted Greece.
“I want to assure you that we do not aim to use any internal European Union situations to improve ties with the European bloc as a whole. We want to work with the whole of united Europe,” he said.
Tsipras has attempted to renegotiate the $260 billion bailout package that the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) provided to Greece to save it from bankruptcy.
A Greek repayment installment of $485 million to the IMF is due Thursday.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said that Greece "intends to meet all obligations to all its creditors, ad infinitum."
Also during the meeting at the Kremlin, Putin indicated Russia could lift its embargo on food imports from Greece.
“Between 2009 and 2013 the turnover between our countries had grown more than twice,” Putin said. But unfortunately last year it decreased by 40 percent at once. That is why of course I believe that your visit could not have come at a better time because we have to analyze what we both could do to restore the previous growth rate.”
In response to Western sanctions last year, Russia banned selected food imports from the European Union, including Greece.
Some information for this report from AP and Reuters.