Alexis Tsipras Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras have had a rocky relationshipReuters

Russia is considering giving Greece a discount on the price it pays for natural gas as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrived in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The two leaders are set to discuss cooperation across a wide range of economic sectors, including tourism, energy, trade and investment, as well as relations between Russia and the European Union, when they meet on 8 April.

In 2015, the EU imposed sanctions on Russia after it annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine. It has also accused Moscow of supporting a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine, in which more than 6,000 people have been killed since April 2014.

Russia is ready to offer Greece an improved price for Russian gas, the Kommersant business newspaper reported, citing a source in the Russian government. In return, Russia would want access to Greek assets, the source told the business newspaper.

Meanwhile, Athens is said to be keen for Russia to lift its ban on Greek fruit and vegetable imports. Moscow imposed the ban on member states of the European Union after the bloc imposed tough sanctions on entire sectors of the Russian economy in 2014.

The timing of the talks has raised eyebrows in Brussels. Tsipras was originally scheduled to meet with Putin in early May but the visit was brought forward. It was ostensibly done to avoid upsetting allies by appearing at a Second World War parade in Moscow on 9 May.

It has also raised concerns Athens and Moscow could be entering into a more serious alliance, united by a chilling of relations with Europe. Chief among the fears expressed in Brussels is that Greece looks to secure financial assistance from Moscow as it slides towards insolvency later in April.

European officials fear Russia would extend major financial assistance in return for assurances that Athens would eventually veto sanctions on Russia.