Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. File Photo: Hugo Philpott/ UPI | License Photo
MOSCOW, April 8 (UPI) -- Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday on a trip some in Europe perceive as an attempt to gain Russian financial help.
Tsipras has roiled European opinion with suggestions that European Union (EU) sanctions against Russia are not working; his country also faces a loan payment deadline Thursday of 456 million euros ($505 million) to the International Monetary Fund, which Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told IMF chief Christine Lagarde would be paid.
Greek officials said payment of the loan could mean the Greek government will be unable to pay pensions and public sector wages next week, the New York Yimes said Wednesday.
Although Greek officials insisted Tsipras' visit to Moscow was not in search of financial assistance, it highlights suggestions of a breakdown in European solidarity against Russia, and of the success of sanctions put in place to protest Russian involvement in Ukraine.
In meeting with Tsipras, Putin noted trade between Greece and Russia doubled from 2009 to 2013 but fell 40 percent in 2014. "We need to discuss the issues of recovery of the trade rate of growth. "This is why we have to recover the rate of growth," Putin said.
The EU sees the visit as an effort by Greece to find new allies as it seeks another bailout of about 240 billion Euros ($260 billion) to avert bankruptcy. By reinforcing ties with Moscow, Tsipras could be checking to see if Russia might be a future ally and benefactor.
European leaders are looking at the meeting with interest, but distance. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande have each predicted nothing of substance will come of the meetings between Putin and Tsipras, and at a press conference Tuesday with Hollande in Berlin, Merkel noted, "We were also in Moscow and we're still members of the European Union and stand unified," a reference to a visit by Merkel and Hollande in February.