Moscow, July 11, Interfax - The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS) has denied any involvement in attempts to bribe the Greek Orthodox Church and does not believe that such attempts could have been made by Russian diplomats.
"The IOPS has no connection to that, and I do not believe that our diplomats or anyone else can have a connection to that. We never made any attempts to influence bodies of local authority. And we never even thought of that," Sergey Zhitenev, deputy chairman of the Moscow division of the IOPS, told Interfax-Religion on Wednesday.
The Greek government has decided to expel two Russian diplomats and ban two from entering Greece, accusing them of interfering in the country's domestic affairs and illegal actions in relation to Greece's national security, the newspaper Kathimerini reported today.
According to the newspaper, Athens accuses the Russian diplomats of "efforts to extract and circulate information, and to bribe Greek state operatives." It said Russia was trying "to intervene in a sensitive domestic issue like the agreement between Greece and FYROM over the name, and by doing so negatively affect Greece's role in the Balkans."
"The initiative follows numerous coordinated efforts to expand Russian influence in Greece including, among others, the activities of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society," the article said. "Through monetary rewards they are trying to influence municipalities, metropolitans in the Greek Orthodox hierarchy, and to gain influence in Mount Athos," it said.