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Russia will entertain the idea of loaning money to Greece if Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ new coalition gets nowhere in talks with international lenders, Russia’s Ambassador Andrey Maslov said.

With Greece locked in tough talks over a delayed 7.2-billion euro loan, and with money running out, Tsipras, the Radical Left SYRIZA leader and former Communist youth leader, is planning a visit to Moscow on April 8 to meet Premier Vladimir Putin.

“The new Greek government is aiming to strengthen Greek-Russian ties,” Maslov told Sunday’s Kathimerini. “Russia is prepared to progress in this direction,” he added, referring to recent meetings between officials from the two countries, including Foreign Ministers Nikos Kotzias and Sergey Lavrov, who met in Moscow on February 11.

“We are certain that the Greek Prime Minister’s working visit to Moscow will be a big event for our bilateral relations,” said Maslov. “The possibility of further cooperation in trade, energy, technical military issues, education and culture will be examined.”

Maslov said that any request from Athens for a loan would have to be “examined very carefully” because of Greece’s standing as a member of the European Union and Eurozone.

“If the Greek government submits a request for a loan, it will be examined – as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after meeting his counterpart Nikos Kotzias and as Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has said,” Maslov added.

Despite that goodwill, Russia still has sanctions on foodstuffs from the EU, including Greece, in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed after Moscow backed Russian separatists in Ukrainian insurgency.

But he said he was grateful that Greece tried to ease the tough restrictions, noting the history of closeness between the two Orthodox countries.

“We are grateful for Greece’s efforts in helping ease the tension in relations between Russia and the EU, which is mainly due to the sanctions,” he said.

“The stance of our Greek partners and other EU member-states during the council of foreign ministers in January and at the EU leaders’ summit in February prevented the hawks … from creating a permanent rift in Russia-EU relations.”

Source: The National Herald
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