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Athens demonstration calls for 'money for health not frigates'

Huge demonstrations have begun in Greece in opposition to the right-wing government's warmongering and needless spending on weapons, reports KEVIN OVENDEN

THOUSANDS of peace protesters demonstrated in Athens this week in the largest display yet of opposition both to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and to any escalation of the conflict by Nato.

The march from the university area to the parliament had the blessing of the full range of the left in the country: from the main opposition party Syriza, through the party of former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, to the Communist Party (KKE) and forces of the anti-capitalist left.

The KKE had last week called a demonstration from the Russian to the US embassy against what the party general secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas has described as an inter-imperialist war “in which working people are told to choose between rival robber camps.”

The sentiment on Tuesday’s large demonstration, expressed in various slogans and banners, was to refuse that choice while offering solidarity with the people of Ukraine and of Russia.

It came as right-wing Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis seized on the growing crisis to proclaim that Greece “is on the right side of history” by sending arms to Ukraine. He cited the large Greek presence in the port city of Mirupol on the Black Sea.

In the parliamentary debate Syriza pointed to the “dangers” of pouring more weapons into the conflict. Varoufakis cautions that “those urging Ukrainians on to fight for Nato to reach Russia’s borders... are doing Ukrainians a huge disservice.”

Last week the Greek government approved the biggest upgrade of the country’s powerful navy in 20 years. It is to purchase three state-of-the-art frigates built in France and a corvette at the cost of €2.25 billion and an option next year for more.

There is considerable public anger at the surge in military spending in a country not yet recovered from the eurozone crisis 10 years ago. The slogan “money for health not for frigates” is common on the rash of demonstrations and strikes being mounted by health workers.

Mitsotakis has seized on the Ukraine crisis to claim that it will encourage Turkey to seize Greek islands so more arms spending and military preparedness is justified and “political dissent stops where the interests of the motherland start.”

He offered support to a rally of NGOs and of many Ukrainians in Athens to press a pro-Nato, pro-Greece message upon what was mainly an expression of simple solidarity.

More anti-war events are planned to stop the war and prevent the Greek government from inflaming matters further.

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