The Prime Minister of Greece will fly into Moscow today for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid ongoing concern that the Mediterranean country will run out of money this month.
Alexis Tsipras' meeting had originally been scheduled for May, but has been brought forward, raising suspicions that Greece plans to gain funding from Russia or to use relations with the country as a bargaining chip with its Eurozone partners during bailout negotiations.
Athens is currently locked in talks with its creditors as it seeks to have reforms approved in return for a further €7.2bn (£5.3bn) portion of its bailout loan.
“While no member of the government admits to it publicly, the fostering of better relations with Russia is seen as a potential negotiating tool in relations between Greece and its lenders,” said an analyst from Greek think tank Macropolis.
“Russia is viewed as an alternative should these talks fail to result in a satisfactory conclusion even though there are serious doubts about whether Russia could help financially in such a case. The only tangible result that Tsipras may be able to bring back from Moscow is the lifting of the Russian embargo on Greek agricultural products.”
Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis flew to Washington over the weekend, where he was adamant Greece would complete a €460m (£340m) payment to the International Monetary Fund, due this Thursday.
“I welcomed confirmation by the minister that payment owing to the Fund would be forthcoming on 9 April,” said IMF boss Christine Lagarde.
City A.M. understands he met Nathan Sheets, US Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, and Caroline Atkinson, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told his Greek counterpart in February that Moscow would consider a loan to Greece if the country asked for one – an offer repeated by the Russian ambassador to Greece last week in an interview with Greek newspaper Kathimerini.
Greece’s near-term cash problems have received some alleviation.
A policy that offered substantial discounts on tax arrears if they were paid early has helped to boost state coffers and has proved “quite effective”, a spokesman for the finance ministry told City A.M. It raised over €100m in its first few days. Eurozone finance officials will meet tomorrow and on Thursday for further discussions on Greece’s proposed reforms.
A TOUGH MONTH AHEAD
TODAY: Greek Prime Minister travels to Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin.
TOMORROW: Eurozone deputy finance ministers to negotiate Greece’s proposed reforms.
THURSDAY: Greece to repay €460m to the International Monetary Fund and another meeting of deputy finance ministers.
FRIDAY TO MONDAY: Bank holiday in Greece to mark Greek Orthodox Easter.
14 APRIL: Greece to rollover €1.4bn of short-term debt.
15 APRIL: The European Central Bank will review emergency lending to Greek banks.
17 APRIL: Greece to rollover a further €1bn of short-term debt.
20 APRIL: Greece owes €80m in interest to the European Central Bank.
24 APRIL: A meeting of Eurozone finance ministers that could unlock cash for Greece.