Russian Executive Faces Greek Army Stint

A St. Petersburg entrepreneur who took Greek citizenship to facilitate his business has been barred from leaving the Mediterranean country until he settles the issue of his obligatory Greek military service.

At age 44, Andrei Baklanov, owner of the construction firm Nevsky Syndicate, faces the prospect of boot camp in the Greek army after he was turned away by police at the Thessaloniki airport last week while trying to board a flight to St. Petersburg.

Police prevented Baklanov from boarding the flight because he was still eligible to complete the 12 months of military service required of all male Greek citizens under age 45, Thessaloniki airport police official Efstratis Kapakontinos said by telephone Tuesday.

"Mr. Baklanov will have to settle this account with his recruitment officer," Kapakontinos said, adding that Baklanov was neither arrested nor detained. "We simply followed the law that, as a Greek citizen who at 44 still had not completed his military service, he could not leave the country."

The age of exemption from Russian military service is 27.

Baklanov is arguing that his service in the Soviet military should exempt him serving in Greece.

"Having served in the army of one country, I am exempted from service in another," he told the St. Petersburg web site in an interview published Monday. "The representative of the Greek Defense Ministry informed me that he absolutely agreed, but he still hadn't seen my papers about service in Russia."

Nevsky Syndicate spokeswoman Olga Tyutlina said Tuesday that Baklanov was unavailable to comment but that a company representative had been dispatched to Greece with documents proving the businessman's Soviet military service.

"Once a few documents concerning his age and his military service in Russia are sorted out in Greece, he'll be able to leave the country," Tyutlina said by telephone from St. Petersburg.

Tyutlina declined to specify when or for what reasons Baklanov obtained his Greek passport, saying only that "having two passports facilitates travel and conducting business between the two countries."

Nevsky Syndicate runs a real estate development business on the Chalkidiki peninsula in northern Greece, according to the company's web site. The company also assists foreign clients with Greek visas and citizenship, the web site says.

In December, the company inked a deal in which Rosbank, one of the country's largest banks, would invest 410 million euros in Nevsky Syndicate's construction of a marina on the Gulf of Finland, reported in January. Tyutlina declined to discuss the deal.

The Greek military has a reputation for being flexible toward the well-connected. Many wealthy Greeks secure military desk jobs in Athens for their sons' service, while the less well-off are often sent to protect the country's borders.

"Though I cannot give details about specific cases, exemptions are often granted," said Pavlos Voaidis, a representative of the Drama Military Recruiting Office, where Baklanov will have to sort out his military obligations. "We do not have many middle-aged privates."