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Greece Expels Russian Diplomats Caught Trying to Fan Tensions with Macedonia

News Brief

Two Russian diplomats have been expelled from Greece after they tried to bribe local officials, priests and even military officers in an effort to disrupt a deal aimed at reducing tensions with the country’s northern neighbor Macedonia.

The agreement is supposed to settle a nearly 30-year-old dispute between Athens and Skopje that had prevented Macedonia from joining NATO and beginning the process of joining the European Union (E.U.).

Greece is already a member of both organizations, but Moscow appears determined to stop Macedonia going down the same path.

When the diplomats tried to bribe a military officer into opposing the agreement, he told his commander, thereby revealing the plot, according to the Financial Times.

Two other diplomats have been banned from returning to Greece because of allegations they had been involved in similar practices in the past.

The two neighbors have long been split over the use of the name “Macedonia”. One of Greece’s provinces shares the same name and there have been fears that the country of Macedonia had territorial ambitions there. But under an agreement signed by the two countries last month, Macedonia agreed to rename itself the Republic of North Macedonia.

Expelling the diplomats is being seen as an unprecedented move by Greece, which has previously sought to remain relatively neutral in relations with Russia.