Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka are completing the recuperation phase of their mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on the island of Crete. The two Russian space travelers received an official welcome today from the Governor of Crete, Stavros Arnaoutakis and other officials at Anemos Grand Luxury Resort on the north coast of the island.
The cosmonauts, who just returned from the ISS after 172 days in space, are following in the footsteps of their Roscomos fellows, Yuri Malenchenko and Fedor Yurchihin, who took part in the Russian space agency monitored recovery program after previous missions.
Thanassis Avgerinos - Moscow correspondent of Greek Media and coordinator of the project, had this to say:
“It's a great honor for me to be coordinating this kind of rehabilitation of Russian cosmonauts on Crete. From the onset, our friends and business partners saw this story as not just a tourist business one, but as a great opportunity for creating deep human experiences and building friendship between Russian and Greek people. Crete is the ideal place for that. Practically everybody here has embraced this project, and the very special Russian guests who we want to enjoy our best hotel & spa infrastructure, best food & services, and the world’s most hospitable place. “
Crete was chosen for the cosmonauts because of the island’s special climate, diet, and unique brand of hospitality. Organized by Greek businessman and longtime Moscow native Thanassis Avgerinos, EyeWide Digital, and by Anemos Grand Resort and Aldemar Resorts, the new program is under the supervision of Roscosmos physician Mikhail Potapov. At a press conference yesterday, Governor Arnaoutakis spoke of the warm welcome and the future potential of such initiatives:
"We welcome our distinguished guests to Crete, to the finest hotel on our island that opened only this year. Your colleagues faired well recuperating here from their missions, and we hope your visits to our island will be lucky for us, and that more Russian people will come here. We wish you a great stay, and a speedy recovery too."
Earlier the cosmonauts took part in a ceremonial unveiling of a statue of the legendary Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin in Heraklion, set to commemorate the 55th anniversary of Gagarin's historic first flight into space, as well as the Year of Russia-Greece, 2016. Just last week Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova gave an exclusive interview to the Greece-Russia 2016 officials in which she referred to Greece as "a tested and reliable friend of Russia".
Just this Spring of this year, the president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin visited Greece and had discussions about how the two countries could forge even greater cooperation.