Welcoming the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, to Moscow at a time of badly strained relations between Russia and Europe, President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday declared that the visit “could not have come at a better time.”
Mr. Tsipras, who is in tough negotiations with fellow European leaders over international financial assistance that Greece needs to avoid bankruptcy, arrived here on Tuesday night. His visit has raised eyebrows across the Continent because of a perception that he may be trying to gain leverage by cozying up to Mr. Putin.
Although Greek officials have said that Mr. Tsipras would not use the visit to appeal directly for financial assistance from Mr. Putin, the prime minister’s public criticism of Western sanctions against Russia as “a road to nowhere” has heightened concerns that the visit is evidence of emerging cracks in European unity over the Kremlin’s policies in Ukraine.
Appearing briefly together at the Kremlin before their meeting on Wednesday afternoon, the two men appeared relaxed, with Mr. Putin in a suit and tie, and Mr. Tsipras dressed more casually in a blue blazer and a white shirt open at the collar.
Greece, like some other European countries, has suffered from Russian countersanctions barring the import of agricultural products, and Mr. Putin emphasized that trade would be a primary focus of the talks.
“We need to discuss the issues of recovery of the trade rate of growth,” he said, noting that trade between Greece and Russia had doubled from 2009 to 2013, but last year dropped by 40 percent.
“This is why we have to recover the rate of growth,” Mr. Putin said.
Expounding on his point that the meeting was well timed, Mr. Putin noted that it was occurring just before Orthodox Easter, and that Greece and Russia share “common spiritual roots.”
Mr. Tsipras said he expected their meeting to address “stability and security” in the broadest sense of those terms.
For Russia, the visit is a welcome departure from the mostly tense interactions between the Kremlin and the West over Ukraine, including mounting frustration over the lack of movement toward implementing the political components of a cease-fire agreement signed in February that was brokered by Mr. Putin, President François Hollande of France, President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.