Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in Greece to sign oil and gas contracts - in a visit seen as signalling that both he and his hosts have options other than to rely on the West. Ivor Bennett reports.
There aren't many places in the EU Vladimir Putin can count on for a warm welcome. But Greece is one of them. Though they comply with sanctions against Moscow, they've made their reservations known. A bond the Russian President is keen to exploit. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: (TRANSLATION THROUGH INTERPRETER) "In the month of March the number of Russian tourists that visited Greece increased by 523 percent. We must continue in this direction not only with tourism but also in other sectors." By that he means energy and transport Oil and gas contracts are expected to be signed, Putin also expressing interest in buying Greece's railway operator But others think there's an ulterior motive, and not just for him. (SOUNDBITE) (English) COMMERZBANK, GLOBAL FINANCIAL ECONOMIST, PETER DIXON, SAYING: "In some sense the Greeks are sending a warning shot to Brussels that hey, you know, we might have alternatives. And I think from the Russian side, it's a case of saying you know, look, we're out there, we're a big player. If we want to offer some help to Greece it might be seen as some way of embarrassing the West." For Greece and its finance minister, the timing couldn't be better. Euclid Tsakalotos saying he hopes this week's bailout deal will mean Athens can qualify for the ECB's QE programme. It's a big ask given that last step took 6 months. But one that could be difficult to refuse. (SOUNDBITE) (English) COMMERZBANK, GLOBAL FINANCIAL ECONOMIST, PETER DIXON, SAYING: "Well I think it's the only hope that Greece has to remain a functioning member of the euro zone. So it's a question of whether the ECB is prepared to accept that the progress that Greece has made will at some stage qualify for that support." And what better way to persuade them than to show you have other offers too?