THE BIG news from Milan that everyone in Kyproulla was anxiously waiting for was announced on Friday morning by government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides – Prez Nik finally had his eagerly-sought meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
For a whole week, Nicosia had been begging the Russian government for Putin to grant Nik an audience on the sidelines of the Asian Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Milan, which both would be attending, but without any success. The initial request for a proper meeting was turned down so we kept lowering our meeting requirements, but even our final offer of a one-minute encounter and handshake in a corridor was not granted.
It would have been a bit embarrassing if Nik had not managed to meet the great friend of Kyproulla in our hour of need. The National Council had decided on October 6 that the prez should arrange a meeting with Putin within the week as part of the action plan devised to deal with Turkey’s plans to carry out explorations in our EEZ.
How could our politicians and newspapers sustain the myth about Mother Russia being our traditional friend and dependable ally when Putin could not spare five minutes from his busy schedule for a handshake and photograph with Nik that would show his genuine feelings of warmth and friendship for Kyproulla?
To make the potential for embarrassment even bigger, the spokesman announcing earlier in the week, without receiving confirmation from Moscow, that Nik would be meeting Putin in Milan. He was obviously acting on instructions from his boss, who calculated that even if he was not granted an audience he would be able to corner Putin in a corridor, shake hands and report he had a long and productive discussion with him.
THINGS were not looking good on Thursday night even though a little earlier Nik and his entourage had a meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, presumably to decide what our government would tell journalists was discussed at the Vlad-Nik meeting which had not been arranged.
Talking from Milan on the CyBC evening television news, spokesman Christodoulides, who is as big a sucker for publicity as Odysseas, still could not say when the eagerly awaited meeting would be held. “Has the meeting with Mr Putin been arranged,” he was asked by Emilia and responded: “Mr Putin arrives in Milan in about an hour. We are in contact with his associates here and it is expected that the meeting would be arranged for later this evening or tomorrow.” It was 8.15pm and Putin’s associates had still not agreed to a meeting, turning the matter into what newspaper headline-writers would have imaginatively described as a ‘thriller’, if it were not the leader of our beloved Mother Russia that was giving us the run-around.
This is not meant as criticism of Mr P who had much more important issues to deal with while in Milan than to waste his precious time participating in an idiotic PR exercise designed exclusively for domestic consumption in Kyproulla.
THE THRILLER had a satisfactory ending. Apparently the Vlad-Nik meeting took place during the dinner for the heads of state attending ASEM on Thursday evening.
During the two-hour dinner, Nik and Vlad were reportedly sat next to each other (there was a picture of the two of them together to prove it) and had the opportunity to discuss a range of issues relating to Kyproulla, said the government spokesman.
Comfortingly, Putin, told Nik everything that the Cypriot politicians and journalists wanted to hear, indicating that he was very much in tune with our thinking. Christodoulides issued an announcement on Friday morning to inform us that the meeting was held during dinner and that the prez “had the opportunity, in a very friendly and cordial atmosphere, to talk extensively to the president of the Russian Federation.”
The discussion covered “the whole range of bilateral relations as well as the current phase of the Cyprus problem, with a focus on the latest developments, shaped by Turkey’s NAVTEX, relating to the exclusive economic zone of the Cyprus Republic,” said Christodoulides.
And then he repeated the familiar script. “Mr Putin re-affirmed the Russia position of principle as regards the settlement of the Cyprus problem as well as regards the inalienable right of the Cyprus Republic to exploit the natural resources within its EEZ, describing any violation of the sovereign rights of the Cyprus Republic as unacceptable.”
The love-in did not end there. The two leaders also agreed “to be in continuous discussions, depending on developments” and visits would be arranged.
This is what the prez told Christodoulides to say was discussed as the spokesman was not at the two-hour dinner. There is always the possibility that Putin said none of this during the dinner but that Lavrov agreed, at the earlier meeting, that these comments could be attributed to Putin, who is very unlikely to have spent the two-hour dinner talking extensively about the Cyprob and re-affirming his country’s position of principle.”
THE GOVERNMENT was so keen to show Vlad and Nik together that it sent an amateur quality picture of the two standing next to each other and shaking hands. If I did not see Nik’s left arm by his side I would have thought it was a selfie, taken on his mobile, to show the folks back home.
It was a picture taken by a phone, but we do not know who the photographer was (perhaps Mrs Merkel who was also at the dinner?). It was sent to the media by Christodoulides Friday morning so it could go with his announcement.
A much better picture was filed later on with the two men sitting at the table Vlad staring menacingly at the camera and looking neither cordial nor warm. Nik in contrast had the grin of self-satisfaction, pleased that he had pulled off a publicity stunt that would silence his biggest detractors back home.
MEANWHILE, Christodoulides was so pleased with what had been achieved he said that the meeting was held at the request of the Russian side.
Had he forgotten all the requests the government had made for the meeting, or did he think a white lie would not hurt anyone – the Russians were not going to issue a denial about such a triviality after playing such a big part in Nik’s publicity stunt.
A question that nobody asked was whether it was correct behaviour for the prez to publicly announce what he had been talking about with Putin during the dinner. It just does not seem right that a private dinner conversation could be relayed publicly, unless of course it was the Russians who asked Christodoulides to make it public.
MASS euphoria hit Cyprus when it was announced on Thursday that there would be a Russian navy exercise in waters east of the island starting tomorrow, everyone quick to link this with Turkey’s NAVTEX which starts on the same day.
Mother Russia had sent its navy to frighten off the Turks was the prevailing view. “Orgasm (sic) of exercises around Cyprus,” read Phil’s lyrical headline adding rather misleadingly that Russian exercises would be taking place “next to Barbaros”, the Turkish seismic vessel that would carry out surveys in the Cyprus EEZ hundreds of kilometre away.
Phil was also referring to a joint Cyprus-Israel search and rescue exercise that will take place on Tuesday; without this exercise it would not have been an orgasm.
Pro-government Alithia went beyond the orgasm, trumpeting, “Russia and Israel by the side of Cyprus” on its front page. These exercises were not “just a rebuke of the Turkish provocations in the EEZ, but a clear covering of our sovereign rights by Russia and Israel,” the paper said.
I hope our prez did not forget to thank Putin, during the dinner, for sending the Russian navy protect our sovereign rights.
ALL THIS nonsense could have been avoided had the government not tried, so crudely to link the Russian exercise to Turkey’s NAVTEX.
Emilia got the ball rolling on Thursday night when she asked Christodoulides whether “we should consider the Russian exercises as an answer by Moscow to a possible heightening of the Turkish provocations on Monday, in support Nicosia.”
The spokesman cleverly said “we should take into account the timing of the exercise” and when Emilia countered, “so it cannot be a coincidence,” he declared: “Certainly, nothing is a coincidence and the developments and there has been a reaction to Turkey’s violations….”
He repeated his ‘not a coincidence’ line the following day as well, informing us that “nothing is by chance in politics”, which made you wonder on what Christodoulides had based this astute observation. Not on Kyproulla, where everything is by chance in politics?
IT SEEMS only the Russian navy could save the Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas from the hole he has dug himself in with regard to the threatening text messages sent to witnesses in the Aristo case.
The mayor, a bash-patriotic DIKO stalwart, was remanded in custody for four days while the court allowed the police full access to his bank and land registry records. Meanwhile Paphos councillors have also been putting the boot in, claiming there were dodgy dealings surrounding a pop concert held last summer by the municipality and organised by his dishy assistant Maria Solomonidou with help from her husband’s company.
What was interesting was how the politicians take the moral high ground, when the suspect is not from their party. An AKEL deputy demanded a full investigation into the goings-on in Paphos and expressed the hope that the full force of the law would come down on the culprits. Had it been an Akelite that was the suspect, the commies would have been claiming that he was innocent and the charges were a fabrication.
DIKO, on the other hand, which made a big fuss about the Dromolaxia case, which AKEL insisted was a fabrication, has said nothing publicly about Vergas, who is a loyal supporter of Junior. It restricted itself to kicking him of the party’s central committee. At least it did not claim the case was a fabrication.
YOU HAD to laugh on hearing tax cheat, Ttooulis Ttoouli’s lawyer’s arguments seeking the court’s clemency when it sentenced his client for tax evasion. He urged the judge to take into account Tttooulis’ services to his country as well as the fact that he had participated in the EOKA struggle as a teenager.
There is nothing more infuriating than hearing all these state officials advertising their services to the country, as if they were offering these free of charge. The truth is that they were richly rewarded for these services, becoming rich men in the process. A mediocrity like Tttooulis enjoyed very high career earnings only because he was working for the state, while on his retirement he was being paid three pensions.
Hopefully the judge will not be swayed by this disingenuous argument, because the reality is that Ttooulis was grossly overpaid for the services he offered the country. Someone who made so much money out of the state, over his lifetime, should have had the decency to pay something back in the form of taxes.
BACK in 1964, Phil reported that “results of the commerce minister A. Araouzos’ visit to Moscow were positive, if the statement by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who said that “we will help Cyprus with all our soul,” is anything to go by. This is irrelevant but in the same issue of the paper Spyros Kyprianou, our foreign minister at the time, “in statement expressed the bitterness of Cyprus for the stance of the US.”
Nothing changes it seems. Meanwhile in September 1974, Phil carried the following report: “The Soviet under-secretary of foreign affairs, Ilichov is paying a visit to Cyprus, a fact that has boosted the hopes of the Cypriot people of being rid of the occupation. The Soviet official was welcomed by enthusiastic mass gatherings.”
“One of the most popular political slogans of the time”, the paper said, “was ‘Makarios to Moscow’ so that a more active involvement and support by the Soviet Union could be secured.” Russia, then as now, always came to our rescue but never rescued us.