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Trade ties and sanctions on the agenda as Greece's Tsipras visits Moscow

Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has arrived in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The EU Parliament's president has warned Tsipras not to break the line on EU sanctions towards Russia.

Greece's Prime Minister has arrived in Moscow for a controversial visit as his government faces a deadline on Thursday to repay 450 million euros ($487 million) to the International Monetary Fund. Further repayments are due in the coming weeks.

Tsipras is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin for formal talks on Wednesday. They are expected to sign a number of agreements, including a plan to strengthen economic and commercial ties. Greece currently imports 57 percent of its gas supplies from Russia.

The Greek prime minister has voiced his disagreement with the European Union's position on Russia with sanctions imposed after its annexation of Crimea and support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. The EU has issued statements calling for a common line.

"We expect that all member states are treated equally and we expect as well that all member states speak with one voice to all our trade partners, including Russia," EU Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario said.

Tsipras' government has said it will not seek aid from Moscow

during the prime minister's meeting with Putin. But Athens has so far failed to reach a deal with its international creditors to unlock fresh funds.

Athens' anti-austerity government has spent most of its two months in power trying to unlock 7.2 billion euros in financial assistance from its

240 billion euro bailout programme.

In an unrelated parliamentary debate on Monday, Tsipras said: "Greece lost a large part of its economic power in the last four and a half to five years." He added: "It is a sovereign country that partners and creditors cannot play with. You will see that, and the partners and creditors will see that."

A warning for Tsipras

In an article to be published in Wednesday's edition of the Münchner Merkur, European Parliament President Martin Schulz warned Tsipras not to break with the EU line on sanctions.

"Greece demands and gets a lot of solidarity from the EU," Schulz told the regional German newspaper. "We can therefore also ask for solidarity from Greece and for this solidarity not to be ended unilaterally by pulling out of joint measures."

Schulz said he, and others, had explained the position to Tsipras in a number of discussions: "He should base his actions in Moscow on that. The EU expects that from him as the head of government of an EU member state," Schulz added.

Tsipras is also due to meet with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday.

jm/gsw (Reuters, AFP)

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