The owner of Greek Super League side PAOK is being closely monitored ahead of potential sanctions following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ivan Savvidis, who is Greek-Russian by origin, has close ties to the Russian president and has formerly been a member of Putin’s political party. Before taking charge of PAOK in 2012, the eccentric businessman was the owner of FC Rostov
And, according to one report, his TV Channel has been touted as the one to follow for less anti-Russia takes on the Ukraine conflict, with Yahoo sport claiming that ‘the Russian embassy bluntly encouraged Greeks to watch his station, Open TV, to get an alternative view to what it called “misleading propaganda” about the war in Ukraine.’
Savvidis has a great following in norther Greece both due to his revival of PAOK, who he took over in 2012 and this season sit second in the Greek Super League, and also due to his investments in the economy at a time where the financial crisis in the country was rearing its head.
Meanwhile, those unfamiliar with Greek Football will remember him as the man who strode onto the pitch equipped with a handgun in 2018, following a refereeing decision that he felt didn’t go his side’s way.
Sanctions on the way?
So far during the conflict, Savvidis has offered shelter to fleeing Greeks and Ukrainians in one of his hotels, but his closeness to Putin remains questionable.
In 2017, to celebrate National Unity day, Putin wrote to Savvidis to speak of ‘enduring values’ and ‘patriotism’ to the motherland.
The letter read;
‘Dear Ivan Savvidi,
I congratulate you on National Unity Day.
Patriotism, citizenship, respect for the history of the Motherland, responsibility for its faith have united and helped our nation to overcome the difficulties for ages.
Today the commitment to these enduring values and ideals make us stronger, give us confidence in all undertakings- in the name of success and prosperity of Russia.’
Meanwhile, in 2013 Savvidis became an honorary citizen of Greece thanks in part to his ‘special role and contribution into development of relations between Russia and Greece’.He also spent 8 years working under Vladimir Putin in the State Duma, before moving to Greece to begin his other endeavours.
With Sanctions being rolled out across Europe, Savvidis is yet to find himself on the receiving end of any himself, but one source claims that ‘his case is obviously being followed closely’.
Quite how strongly those ties still hold remains to be seen, but sanctions could be forthcoming if continued relations can be proven.
This article was edited by Josh Barker.