ATHENS: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed several economic deals with Athens on Friday during a visit to Greece aimed at reinforcing a relationship with one of his few friends in the EU amid tensions with the West. The visit, Putin’s first to the EU since December, comes at a low ebb in relations between Russia and Europe over the conflict in Ukraine that broke out in 2014, with sanctions still in force against Moscow. It also comes as Athens desperately seeks to come out of recession. Greek officials say increased trade with Russia could play a part in recovery efforts. EU leaders are to discuss next month whether to renew sanctions on Russia’s banking, defense and energy sectors that expire in July. The sanctions, however, did not prevent Russia and Greece from signing what Putin referred to as a “bunch of agreements” that included deals on energy and Russian tourism to Greece.