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Russia Denies Greek Pipeline Deal

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (L) speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, April 8, 2015.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (L) speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, April 8, 2015.

Russia has denied a report that it is close to signing a gas pipeline deal with Greece.

The German magazine Der Spiegel first reported the claim, citing an unnamed senior official in Greece's ruling Syriza party.

The official said the deal could bring up to five billion euros into Athens depleted state coffers and could be signed as early as April 21.

The official said the advance funds could "turn the page" for Athens, which is struggling to reach a deal with its creditors to secure new loans to avoid bankruptcy.

However, a Kremlin spokesman denied the German report, saying no such agreement existed.

Quoted by the RIA news agency, Dmitry Peskov reiterated the Greeks had not requested financial assistance when Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month in Moscow.

"Naturally the question of energy cooperation was raised. Naturally ... it was agreed that at the expert level there would be a working-out of all issues connected with cooperation in the energy sphere, but Russia did not promise financial help because no one asked for it," Peskov was quoted as saying.

During his visit to Moscow, Tsipras had expressed interest in participating in a pipeline that would bring Russian gas to Europe via Turkey and Greece.

Under the proposed deal, Greece would receive advance funds from Russia based on expected future profits linked to the pipeline.

The Greek energy minister said last week that Athens would repay Moscow after 2019, when the pipeline is expected to start operating.

Greek government officials were not immediately available to comment on the Spiegel report.

Speaking in Washington on April 18, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he would be happy if the Spiegel report proved correct and Greece received the advance funds, but added:

"I do not think that this would solve the problems Greece has in fulfilling the commitments of the memorandum of understanding (with its European partners)."

With reporting by dpa and Reuters
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