By Angelos Kovaios

Ahead of the next general elections, the attention of the Office of the Prime Minister has focused on a factor that one sees on a daily basis exerting influence throughout Europe: the activity of the pro-Russian lobby.

In the middle of last week, US press outlets reported that, based on official documents of intelligence services, Russia since 2014 has spent over $300bn to fund foreign parties, officials, and politicians in over 24 countries, with the aim of strengthening Moscow’s influence abroad.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had been asked a related question at a major 11 September nationally televised news conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair, and he answered with very specific references and innuendo.

“Yes, in Europe, too, there are parties and forces that are pro-Russian, and Russia would have every reason to support them,” he said.

“As the country [Greece] is gradually entering a pre-electoral course, we must be absolutely vigilant and ensure that, regarding such interventions – and we know the manner in which they are carried out – we shall not allow them in our country to influence in any way the outcome of the Greek elections,” the PM underlined.

Mitsotakis then cited US judicial rulings from last April regarding the channelling of $10mn through the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, via his representatives in Greece and with the participation of Greek journalists, with the aim of creating a network of pro-Russian stations in Greece in 2016.

In early March, Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis had written the following social media post: “[Jack] Hanick was arrested yesterday by the FBI because he was assisting Russian oligarch Malofeev to violate sanctions and set up mass media outlets to disseminate Russian propaganda. Hanick came to Greece in 2015-2016 and created Hellas Net, and served as a member of the board. He received a nationwide license and appointed as director [Greek journalist and publisher] @KostasVaxevaanis.”

Given the fact that ties between Greek politicians were known and publicised, the PM’s office expects the case to unfold further.

According to sources in the PM’s circle, the government plans to request an official briefing from authorities in Washington as to whether the list of payments includes individuals and parties in Greece.

For the time being, however, government sources say that they do not know about whether Russian links with the Greek political system are limited to well-known ultra-right and populist circles, or whether they extend to other political parties, and may include names that would cause surprise.