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    “The New York Times” confirms: Russia wants to take over a key Greek port for NATO

    According to the New York Times, Alexandroupoli has become the key transport point for the flow of U.S. military supplies. “Now, firms with ties to Russia and America are competing for control of the port,” the New York Times reports. In May 2022, Grzegorz Wierzchołowski warned against the threat of a Russian takeover of the port in “Gazeta Polska.” As “GP” wrote, earlier, another Russian oligarch from Putin’s party took over the port of Thessaloniki, one of the largest in the Mediterranean, and a Russian-German consortium was awarded a 40-year concession to operate fourteen Greek airports. According to “GP,” this is the result of Berlin forcing the Greeks to privatize key transportation infrastructure.

    The port of Alexandroupoli is one of Greece’s crucial ones, located in the centre of land and sea routes connecting Greece with Turkey. Travellers use it mainly to get to the islands of Samothrace and Lemnos, but the centre also serves other functions. Due to its strategic location on NATO’s eastern flank, it is of great logistical importance to the military.

     

    In April 2022, the Greek daily “Kathimerini” wrote:

     

    “The port of Alexandroupoli in the northeastern part of the country has become an important staging point for sending NATO equipment to Eastern European member states, as well as to crisis-ridden Ukraine. U.S. military equipment is being sent through Alexandroupoli to Bulgaria, Poland and Romania as NATO has decided to strengthen its eastern flank […] The port was already playing a crucial military role months before the war broke out. In December 2021, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned the Greeks:

    “There are more and more NATO troops on your territory, US troops. You are transferring hundreds and thousands of units of military equipment through Alexandroupoli. You are opening new facilities for NATO. At the same time, NATO calls us an enemy and formulates the main goal of the alliance, which is to deter Russia. That’s why it makes us nervous, you have to understand us.”

     

    Recently, Russia has had even more reason to be nervous. On May 3, 2022, construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal has just begun in Alexandroupoli.

     

    This is a major project that will help Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Serbia become independent of Russian gas. It will be Greece’s second LNG terminal, giving Greece a chance to become a major gas supplier to the Balkan region. The investment has been recognized by the European Union as a project of special interest. As European Council head Charles Michel stated:

     

    “We will end our dependence on Russian fossil fuels. This new LNG terminal is a geopolitical investment. It will help free Southeast Europe from the weaponisation of gas supply by Russia.”

     

    Gazprom’s man and Germany

     

    Unfortunately, the future of the port of Alexandroupoli – so crucial to the security of Europe and Poland in particular – has just come into question. It turns out that it has been earmarked for privatization. And the main favourite to win the tender, which will be decided this year or next year, is Greek businessman Dimitrios Copelouzos linked to Russia’s Gazprom. 

     

    A 2007 ciphertext by the former US ambassador to Greece and published by WikiLeaks reads:

    “The Copelouzos Group is currently one of Greece’s largest commercial and industrial groups, operating in Greece and abroad in several strategic sectors, including construction, energy, transportation, and real estate. One of the firm’s subsidiaries is Prometheus Gas, a joint venture with Russian Gazprom, which has developed into a strategic alliance that will allow Copelouzos to sell Russian gas directly to the Greek market.  The Greek Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) views Copelouzos and his Gazprom alliance with suspicion, fearing the firm could turn into a powerful competitor, representing one of the major challenges to its overall regional gas policy.”

     

    If Copelouzos Group’s bid for the port of Alexandroupoli were to win the competition, it would add to Copelouzos’ already sizable portfolio of investments in key Greek infrastructure. Indeed, the Gazprom-linked businessman’s company is the sole private shareholder in Athens International Airport, and also manages 14 Greek regional airports.

     

    The latter investment is particularly interesting. In 2016, Copelouzos Group, together with Germany’s Fraport AG Frankfurt Airport Services Worldwide, received – as a result of Germany’s ‘privatization’ pressure on Greece – a 40-year concession allowing the consortium to operate, manage, develop and maintain fourteen of Greece’s most important regional airports (including Thessaloniki, Corfu, Crete, Santorini, Rhodes, Kos and Mykonos). It should be added that Fraport’s main shareholder is the German state of Hesse, the position of head of this company is held by CDU economic council member Stefan Schulte, and the chairman of the supervisory board is Michael Boddenberg, until recently heading the CDU parliamentary club in the Hesse parliament.

     

    As “GP” checked – the cooperation between the Greek Copelouzos, the Kremlin and the Germans of Angela Merkel’s party began earlier than the joint ‘privatization’ of Greek seaports and airports. In November 2010, the former Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was just accompanied by Dimitrios Copelouzos, as well as the chairman of Russian banking group WTB Andrei Kostin (now under US and English sanctions) and the aforementioned head of Fraport Stefan Schulte, attended the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the new passenger terminal of Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg. The expansion, reconstruction and operation of the airport were carried out by the joint venture “Northern Capital Gateway,” which included Horizon Air Investments S.A. (a member of the Copelouzos Group) German Fraport, and Russia’s WTB Capital, a member of the WTB Group, which is one of the largest state-owned banking groups in Russia.

     

    The Russian tsar and the Chinese

     

    Copelouzos is not the only Moscow man who, as a result of German pressure on Athens, controls a large part of Greece’s key transportation infrastructure, and may also take over the much-maligned NATO Alexandroupoli.

     

    Namely, as of 2021, one of the largest ports in the Eastern Mediterranean, which is the gateway to the Balkans and Southeastern Europe – that is, the port of Thessaloniki – is 67 per cent owned by Ivan Savvidis. He is an oligarch close to Putin, one of Russia’s richest citizens and a former member of the Russian parliament (from the United Russia party, of course). In April 2022, the Federal National and Cultural Greek Autonomy of Russia – the organization headed by Savvidis – sent vehicles and generators to sanctioned Donetsk terrorists in eastern Ukraine. 

     

    Savvidis is called the “Russian Tsar of Thessaloniki.” He already owned a 20 per cent stake in the port there before 2021. He bought another 47 per cent from the German fund Deutsche Invest Equity Partners, which took over this Greek company in a 2017 privatization precisely together with the Belterra Investments company controlled by Savvidis. So, the privatization of Thessaloniki consisted of the joint acquisition of the port by the Germans and a friend of Putin, followed by the resale of the German shares to this Russian oligarch.

     

    Now, Savvidis has put himself out to tender to buy the above-mentioned port of Alexandroupoli. His ‘competitor’ is Copelouzos, who has the same connections. The only salvation appears to be a win by a US consortium from Texas and Washington, also competing, but, according to unofficial reports, the Russian embassy is doing everything it can to block this bid.

     

    If the U.S.-based companies do not prevail, then through the fault of Germany – which, as part of its ‘rescue’ of the eurozone, forced Greece with blackmail to privatize its strategic infrastructure – all of Greece’s major airports and three key seaports will end up in the hands of NATO’s enemies. In 2016, the port of Piraeus (a coastal city belonging to the Athens metropolitan area) – the largest in Greece and one of the most important in Europe – was ‘privatized’ in such a way that a majority stake was acquired by COSCO – Chinese state-owned company.

     

    COSCO, by the way, has been working with the Russians for years, including a deal in 2019 to transport hydrocarbons from Russia’s Arctic zone with Russian shipowner Sovcomflot and Russia’s largest private natural gas producer Novatek. Today, when all major shipping companies refuse to do business with the Russian Federation, COSCO is an exception. It is the only one to continue shipping containers to Russia. So, it’s no surprise that back in 2021, some Greeks put graffiti on a road along the port of Piraeus: “They sold this place to China and Russia.”

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