ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s foreign ministry said on Monday two Greek expatriates were killed and another two seriously injured in an incident involving Ukrainian soldiers in the country’s east near the front line of the conflict with pro-Russian separatist forces.
Earlier, Greece issued an advisory urging its nationals to avoid travelling to Ukraine and calling on any Greeks there to leave “immediately” in the face of fears that Russia, which has massed forces near Ukraine’s borders, could soon invade.
Moscow has denied any invasion plans and has accused the West of hysteria, but made clear that it sees Ukraine’s quest for closer ties with the West, notably over NATO, as a threat and has demanded a series of security concessions.
The Greek foreign ministry said in a statement that three Ukrainian soldiers were “responsible” for the deaths and injuries to the four Greeks in the village of Hranitne close to the “line of contact” with pro-Russian separatist forces, who seized a swathe of eastern Ukraine in 2014.
It said the violence erupted after the Greeks and Ukrainian soldiers got into an argument “for an insignificant reason”.
It did not say what the Greeks were doing in the area but a Greek foreign ministry official said the incident had nothing to do with the ongoing conflict in the region.
Ukrainian authorities did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ request for comment.
The ministry statement said Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias has sought to speak with his Ukrainian counterpart about the incident and stress that the Greek community in Ukraine should be protected. A few thousand Greek citizens live in the former Soviet republic.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Angeliki Koutantou, editing by Mark Heinrich)