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Russian authorities believe ordinary people shall help bail out indebted Greece and urged them to buy ‘made in Greece’ which will give Athens an estimated export revenue of up to 18 billion euros a year. In the meantime, Russian Gazprom monopoly is eyeing a stake in Greek DEPA state-owned natural gas company.
The Russian Federal Agency for international humanitarian cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) said it is launching “Help Greece!” action on March 23 when the Hellenic Republic will mark the 191st independence anniversary. It urged the Russians to buy Greek olive oil and olives, as well as wine. Various fairs, presentations and food functions are also planned during the year.
“We have calculated that if each Russian spends during a year 3-4 thousand rubles on Greek goods it will give the Greek economy 15-18 billion euros of export revenues,” said Rossotrudnichestvo deputy head Georgy Muradov.
“Greece is a country which is close to us historically in civilizationally and we have to assist the brotherly Greek people in hard times of economic, social, and political crisis. We hope our society will back the action,” he added.
The agency also plans to advertise Greek resorts and real estate that is rapidly depreciating.
It looks like most Russians are ready to join the action. A telephone poll held by the Echo Moskvy radio station showed 67 percent of respondents are eager to buy Greek goods.
The main opposition Communist Party backed the idea. “The Communists should support the action,” party member and deputy head of the State Duma committee on international affairs Leonid Kalashnikov said.
Still the discussion in Internet revealed numerous skeptics as well. “Why should we support the EU? We have a lot of our own problems,” blogger ‘interested’ said.
“It is again the eternal Russian wish to help everyone,” said blogger Tatyana and recalled that money to help South Ossetia was plundered. “Let omnipotent America help Greece,” she concluded.
Although a lot of Greek foods, mostly olives, oil, and fruit, appeared on the shelves of Moscow stores last year, experts believe the action would render moral rather than material support to the Greeks.
“The support of 15-18 billion is small for Greece and will hardly influence its economy and credit rating,” said Vladimir Solodukhin, managing director of Brokercreditservice financial corporation. “But it is likely to produce emotional support as many people (in Greece) are in the doldrums,” he said.
The European Union plans to bail out Greece with a 130-euro billion loan. Besides, Greece agreed on an unprecedented debt writedown with private investors worth 100 billion euro through a bond swap. Athens also agreed on a major austerity plan which is to cut 15 thousand civil servants and decrease minimal wages.
In the meantime, Russia’s Gazprom is considering a possible bid for a stake in DEPA. Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Managing Director of its Greek joint venture Dimitris Copelouzos discussed the bid in March, the Russian gas monopoly said in a statement.
Greece invited bids for the company last month as part of a bid to raise 19 billion euros from privatizations. The Greek government holds a 65% stake in the company.
In late February Gazprom Deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev visited Athens to discuss privatization of DEPA and DESFA gas network operator. The bid is expected by March 22. DEPA can be offered both with or without the pipeline network.
MOSCOW, March 19