Moscow is warning Athens that a potential transfer of Cyprus’ Russian-made S-300 missile defense system from Greece to Ukraine would be “a blatantly aggressive move against Russia.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Monday that Greek authorities have been talking more frequently about a readiness to transfer to Ukraine the S-300 surface-to-air missile systems deployed on the island of Crete in exchange for American-made Patriot missile systems.
“We consider the provocative plans to deliver the S-300s and other air defence systems made in Russia/the Soviet Union to the Kiev regime to be a blatantly aggressive move against Russia,” Zakharova said.
The statement came after Greek media reported that Greece’s Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told a meeting that Athens was ready for the transfer on conditions.
'By sending weapons to the combat zone, it becomes a direct accomplice of the Ukrainian neo-Nazis who have waged a criminal war against the civilians... including the numerous ethnic Greeks'
“If the United States installs a Patriot system on the island and after it is integrated – connected to the national air defense system, then the S-300 can be removed. The same procedure applies to any other Russian-made air defense system that they may want to send to Ukraine," Panagiotopoulos said.
Zakharova warned Athens to abandon any plans “while there is yet time,” adding “there should be no doubt that all military equipment supplied to Kiev will be promptly traced and destroyed by the Russian Armed Forces.”
Zakharova also accused Athens of not caring “that by sending weapons to the combat zone, it becomes a direct accomplice of the Ukrainian neo-Nazis who have waged a criminal war against the civilians of Donbass, and the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, including the numerous ethnic Greeks who live there.”
Earlier this year Panagiotopoulos publicly ruled out the prospect of Athens transferring S-300 to Ukraine, citing “a real threat” from Turkey.
But Greece never intended to have S-300 installed on Crete.
The Republic of Cyprus originally bought the S-300’s but ordered them delivered on Crete back in the mid-1990’s, after Turkey objected to the divided island obtaining such a capable defense system that could also threaten the mainland.
In August 2022 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that Greek S-300 locked on a Turkish aircraft west of Rhodes, accusing Greece of a “hostile act.”
Athens immediately denied its S-300 had been used against the Turkish aircraft, saying it was four Greek F-16 jets that tracked the plane instead.
Experts say Ukraine received other American systems but Kiev would hit the ground running with S-300, due to advanced local experience with the Soviet-type defense weapons.
Zakharova says there are additional transfer restrictions on Greece and accused Athens of “complete indifference towards international restrictions on weapons trade, which do not allow for exporting them to regions where it can lead to the violation of international humanitarian law and to aggravating conflicts.”
“The violation of contractual obligations will inevitably have consequences in addition to a significant weakening of Greece’s air defence capabilities,” she said.