Greece is aiming to purchase missiles for its S-300 anti-missile systems from Russia as tensions between Athens and the European Union push the Syriza-led coalition government closer to Moscow.
The plan to buy the Russian missiles was announced by Greek Defense Minister and Independent Greeks (ANEL) party leader Panos Kammenos, who was in Moscow to attend a security conference Wednesday, just a week after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras paid an official visit to the Kremlin.
"We are limiting ourselves to replacement of missiles [for the systems]," Kammenos was quoted as saying by Russian news agency RIA.
"There are negotiations between Russia and Greece on the maintenance of the systems ... as well as for the purchase of new missiles for the S-300 systems," Kammenos added.
During his visit, Kammenos met with Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu as well as Russian arms industry representatives, who gifted him with a non-functioning AK-74 Kalashnikov complete with bayonet.
It is speculated that as part of his visit Kammenos is seeking to increase cooperation between Greece’s Hellenic Defence Systems (EAS) and Russian arms companies in the hope of replacing G-3 assault rifles, which are currently the weapon-of-choice for Greek military units, with AK-47s.
In addition to updated missiles for the S-300 air defense system, Kammenos said Greece is looking into the maintenance of the weapon systems which it has already bought, such as Tor-M1 air defense systems and Kornet anti-tank missiles.
"Our arms purchases will be limited to procurement of new ammunition to replace the old one," he said.
Greece currently operates at least 25 Tor-Ms1s, around 200 launchers and over 1,100 Kornets. The country also successfully tested the Russian S-300 system, which is based on the island of Crete, in December 2013 for the first time since they were purchased.
The Greek minister also sat down with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who invoked for blessings upon the Greek Armed Forces and spoke extensively about the persecution of Christians in the Middle-East, many of whom he claimed have Greek origins.
Kammenos, who is scheduled to speak at the 4th Conference on International Security in Moscow Thursday and Friday, also pledged Greece’s support for the ending of EU-endorsed sanctions on Russia.
Russia has been on the receiving end of sanctions by the West since annexing Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 following a referendum vote which was held in Crimea shortly after its autonomous government declared independence from Kiev.
Counter-sanctions by Russia on EU food products have also hit European markets hard, with already-struggling Greece among a number of countries voicing their opposition to the sanctions.
"Despite being a little country, we are exerting every effort with a view to lifting these restrictions," Kammenos told Sputnik after saying Greece could also fulfill a role as mediator between Russia and NATO.
During a two-day visit to Moscow last week, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Greek exports had suffered a “sizeable wound" due to the counter-sanctions, with Greece recording a loss of 357 million euros in 2014, down 12 percent from the previous year, as 40 percent of Greek exports to Russia are farm products.
However, the Russian Economy Ministry said it has prepared a proposal to ease Russian embargoes on Greece, which is struggling to raise enough funds to avoid a default on its debt likely to occur if it fails to agree terms with Eurogroup lenders to secure the remaining €7.2 billion of a previously agreed bailout.
Last week, Greece announced it successfully raised 1.138 billion euros by auctioning six-month Treasury bills at a yield of 2.97 percent. Greece is also trying to pressure Germany into paying 279 billion euros in reparations for damages caused by the Nazi regime during World War II.
However, despite the economic troubles, Tsipras did not ask for financial help from Russia during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin.