Cyprus Mail

Putin invites Anastasiades to Moscow (Updated)

Presidents Anastasiades and Putin at the Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan recently

By Angelos Anastasiou

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited President Nicos Anastasiades to Moscow, it emerged on Thursday.

Speaking after a meeting at the presidential palace, Russian ambassador Stanislav Osadchiy said that although the visit has been agreed, no date has been set yet.

“We spoke in general about the possibility of visiting as soon as possible,” the ambassador said.

Osadchiy said they also discussed various other matters with Anastasiades, including developments in the region and bilateral relations.

The Cypriot president and Putin had a discussion during dinner at the Asia-Europe summit earlier this month.

“What is happening in the [Middle East] area was the issue of the discussion, which will be continued in Moscow,” Osadchiy said.

Anastasiades has received political flak for pursuing closer ties with the West, with detractors claiming these come at the expense of Cyprus’ traditional good relations with Russia.

A “one-dimensional” policy of rapprochement with the United States has been the main charge against the government, mainly by opposition parties AKEL and DIKO, who call for a “multi-dimensional” policy that would allow Cyprus to avoid picking sides in the international relations arena and be on good terms with more than one of the major players.

In addition, they argue that the US being among Turkey’s closest allies means that Cyprus could never matter enough to make a difference in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.

The government has consistently rejected such criticism, arguing that relations with Russia remain as close as ever, and made a big fuss over informal discussion between Anastasiades and Putin during the ASEM dinner in Milan in a bid to score points on “multi-dimensionality.”

Relations between the two countries were strained considerably in the last 18 months, after a desperate Cyprus failed to secure a loan from Russia during the days between the Eurogroup decisions that led to the closing of the island’s second-largest bank – Laiki Bank – and the conversion of approximately half uninsured deposits at the Bank of Cyprus, the island’s largest bank, into equity.

In turn, that many of the depositors that suffered from the conversion of deposits – or ‘haircut’ – were Russians did not bode well with the Russian government, and prompted speculation that Russian deposits had been the real target.

Adding insult to injury, in an interview last March Osadchiy issued a thinly-veiled threat against Cyprus – which had consented to EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

And in August, the Russian embassy in Cyprus issued a scathing statement against journalist and researcher Makarios Droushiotis – employed at the Presidential Palace as an advisor to the President – for a book he wrote, arguing that Russia’s political support to Cyprus, particularly as regards the Cyprus problem, is little more than a well-concocted myth.

As a result of the undiplomatic statement, Anastasiades had been forced to distance himself from Droushiotis’ book.

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