Russian President Vladimir Putin received full military honours and a warm welcome at Athens airport for his first visit to Greece in nine years.
It comes ahead of an important vote on EU sanctions which are due to expire in July. Greece and Hungary have already raised criticisms of the sanctions imposed over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
The sanctions hit banking, defence and energy sectors.
At a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday (May 27), Putin said Russian tourist numbers to Greece could jump threefold with improved visa arrangements.
Putin also reiterated his position on Crimea.
“As for Crimea – that question we consider to be closed completely. It was a historical decision made by the people living in Crimea,” said Putin. “And Russia will not hold any discussions on this question with anyone.”
Putin made clear in an article published in Kathimerini on Thursday (May 26)that he was interested in tenders for Greek rail as well as the port of Thessaloniki. He also remarked that the EU sanctions were hurting Greece’s agricultural sector.
According to Greek officials a deal between Russian oil giant Rosneft and Greek refiner Hellenic Petroleum might be signed as well as proposals for a southern gas pipeline through Greece.
We warmly welcome President Putin to Greece (
KremlinRussia_E</a> ). 1/2</p>— Alexis Tsipras (tsipras_eu) May 27, 2016
On Saturday, Putin will take part in a special reception at Mount Athos in northern Greece, also known as the Holy Mountain. It is home to many monasteries and religious sites for Orthodox Christians. It will be part of celebrations commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of the Russian presence at the holy site.