Greece's decision to pursue closer ties with Russia has put some in Brussels on edge. Athens faces a cash crunch in the next few weeks if it cannot reach a deal with EU and IMF creditors.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was already scheduled to visit Moscow in May for the annual Victory Day parade celebrating the capitulation of the Nazis to the Red Army. On Tuesday, he announced that he was making another visit to Russia - a full month ahead of schedule.
"The prime minister will visit the Kremlin following an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin," said a government source without giving a reason for pulling the meeting forward.
Tsipras has made no secret of seeking closer ties to Russia, and a number of Greek officials have openly broached the subject of Athens turning to Russia or China for financial assistance if loan talks with the EU end in failure.
'The most dramatic chapter' in EU history
The prospect of NATO member Greece moving further into the Russian sphere of influence is alarming to many in Brussels, including European Council President Donald Tusk.
"Can you imagine Europe without Greece?" the former Polish prime minister asked, adding that "the consequences for Europe would not only be financial, the results would be the most dramatic chapter in all the history of the European Union."
Greek newspaper Ta Nea suggested that the Russia trip had to do with the cash crunch Athens is facing because it received the funds remaining from the 240 billion euro ($255 billion) EU-IMF rescue package, as Brussels has demanded to approve Greece's revised financial reform plan before delivering the last of the aid.
Athens "sought to bring forward" the meeting with Putin because of the "stifling economic conditions caused in the country from the European side," according to the Greek daily.
Despite the talks with the Kremlin, Tsipras also called for talks with the leaders of France, Germany and the European Union on Tuesday, hoping such a meeting could take place as soon as Thursday, ahead of an EU leaders meeting. He is already set to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, but hoped to get this particular group together sooner.
"I can confirm that (EU President) Tusk is in contact with leaders, including Prime Minister Tsipras, with the aim of organizing a meeting on Greece in the margins of the European Council this week," Preben Aamann, Tusk's spokesman, told French news agency AFP, but did not confirm if the other leaders had agreed to take part.
es/kms (AP, AFP)