By Magda Panoutsopoulou
ATHENS (AA) - Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded his two-day visit to Greece Saturday by stressing the commonalities and sympathy of the Russian and Greek peoples.
“This year is a votive year for Russian-Greek relations. The common religion and mutual sympathy that exist unite our peoples and help us overcome difficulties,” Putin said at a hosting reception of Hellenic Republic President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and the Holy Community of Mt. Athos.
Following his visit to Athens on Friday and his meetings with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Pavlopoulos, Putin attended a liturgy at Karyes on Mt. Athos, where he met again with Pavlopoulos.
Putin was greeted at the holy site on the Chalkidiki peninsula, an area scared to Orthodox Christians and off-limits to women, by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and representatives of the monastery.
The first report of the presence of Russian monks on Mt. Athos dates back more than 1,000 years, Putin noted, adding, "Once again, I emphasize the weight that Mt. Athos has for the development of Orthodoxy in Russia."
The Russian leader expressed his gratitude to the Greek Church and the representatives of the monastery and praised the place as “a truly humanitarian place with a spiritual mission.”
Under strict security measures, Putin was then received at the Monastery of St. Panteleimon by Patriarch Kiril of Moscow, who arrived on Mt. Athos on Friday.
Putin and the patriarch attended several events in his honor and to mark the 1,000-year presence of Russian monks there.