Greece's Tsipras heads to Russia for some love

International Economic Forum kicks off
International Economic Forum kicks off   

With Greece's relations with its European counterparts at a low ebb, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will head to Russia on Thursday and meet President Vladimir Putin at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

Tsipras' visit comes at a crisis point for Greece, with reforms-for-rescue talks between the country and its international lenders in deadlock.

He is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday afternoon, the Greek government said in a statement Thursday, and ahead of that meeting will make a keynote speech at the forum.

Tsipras' government has already warned it will not have the money to pay a debt of 1.5 billion euros to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) without an agreement, prompting increasing concern that Greece will default and eventually leave the euro zone.

However on Thursday, Russian Deputy Finance Minister, Sergei Storchak, said Greece had not asked the Russian Finance Ministry for financial assistance, Dow Jones reported. The ministry would not comment on the remarks when contacted by CNBC.

The head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, said that Greece would be in default at the start of July if it fails to make a repayment on June 30 because there is no grace period or possibility to delay, Reuters reported.

"It will be in default, it will be in arrears vis-a-vis the IMF on July 1, but I hope it is not the case, I really do," Lagarde told reporters following a meeting with the Luxembourg finance minister.

Dmitry Azarov | Kommersant Photo | Getty Images

Russia's Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina told CNBC Russia had considered the implications of such a scenario – for example, its impact on money flow in Europe – and was worried.

"We do consider that scenario as one of possible risks which would increase turbulence in the financial markets in the European market, bearing in mind the fact the European Union is one of major trading partners, and we are definitely worried by it," she told CNBC this week.

Voicing the fears of European politicians who are keen to avoid contagion spreading throughout the euro zone, Nabiullina said a "Grexit" was a possibility – and Russia too could be affected.

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"There is a possibility of this kind of sentiment becoming stronger, which could reduce the rate of the development of the recovery of the European economy, and bring down the demand for our products," she said

There is speculation that talks between the leaders will focus on the proposed construction of a gas pipeline through Greece and the country's potential participation in a new BRICS development bank, set up by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa with a reserve fund for emergency situations.

Tsipras is travelling to Russia with the Greek economy minister and alternate finance minister, among others, plus some business leaders, the Greek government said.

Aiming for 4% inflation: Central Bank of Russia Governor
Aiming for 4% inflation: Central Bank of Russia Governor   

Russia invited cash-strapped Greece to participate in the new bank in May.

The Greek and Russian governments' warming relations have not come as a surprise to some Europe-watchers.

"Ever since he became premier, Mr Tsipras has gone to great lengths to accentuate Greece's cultural and historical ties to Russia as part of his efforts to reorient Greece's economic and foreign policies away from conventional euro zone-centric ones," Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy, told CNBC Thursday.

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"He's playing the nationalist card and cosying up to Russia is part of his brinkmanship with Greece's creditors. This is music to the ears of Mr Putin who already has good relations with a number of EU leaders, notably Hungary's, and wants to showcase Russian influence in Europe," he said.

"All this adds to fears that if Greece exits the euro zone, Russia is waiting in the wings."

- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt. Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld