Cyprus Mail
Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Russia’s woman in Cyprus

Senior counsel Eleni Loizidou pictured with Russian ambassador Stanislav Osadchiy

MOTHER Russia could have no complaints about the exemplary standard of service offered to her prosecution-general’s office by our senior counsel Eleni Loizidou. The woman made it the mission of her life to arrange the detainment and eventual extradition of any Russian national that the Putin regime wanted to subject to an unfair trial and throw into prison.

She asked no questions but simply got on with the job of processing the paperwork, advising her masters in Moscow how to get around any legal obstacles, informing them if she was encountering difficulties with the police and celebrating with them when a so-called fugitive was extradited.

Nobody in Kyproulla had done more to cement our master-servant relations with Russia and provide practical proof that our servility was sincere than Loizidou whose obsequiousness was not based exclusively on Russia’s perennially principled stand on the Cyprob. It also had an ideological element – she was a big fan of Vladimir Putin.

This could be why she worked so zealously to send back Russian nationals that the Putin regime wanted to put in the slammer. Some may have been criminals, but others were Russian nationals that had done little wrong other than publicly oppose Putin, expose the corruption of his kleptocracy or own a business the Russian state wanted for itself.

As a loyal and dutiful servant of the Russian prosecutor, Loizidou did as she was told, asking no questions in helping an authoritarian regime persecute innocent people for political reasons.

 

IN 2015, she arranged the extradition to Russia of Natalia Konovalova, a mother of two underage children, who had been sentenced to five years imprisonment in absentia by a Russian court on charges of embezzling 1.5 billion roubles.

Konovalova had worked for a subsidiary of Yukos, one of Russia’s biggest companies, which the Russian state had stolen from its owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, after subjecting him to a show trial during which he was placed in a cage. She had applied for political asylum in Cyprus in 2011 on the grounds that she was being persecuted for her political beliefs.

The application was rejected by the interior ministry, just a few days before the final decision on her extradition was taken, prompting the judge to say “it bodes ill that, following so many years’ of the application being pending, it was examined so hastily.”

Loizidou was overjoyed she secured the extradition of Konovalova, as she wrote in one of her emails, and sent her to spend five years in a Russian prison.

 

ON JULY 15 of the same year the Russian state issued an international arrest warrant for a young journalist from the Urals, Andrey Nekrasov, and he was arrested by the cops as soon as he arrived at Larnaca airport and held in Nicosia Central Prison until his hearing, scheduled for a month later.

Nekrasov was an investigative journalist and activist who had exposed local government corruption in Izhevsk in the Udmurt Republic and had campaigned for the rights of factory workers. He was subsequently accused by the factory owner of extortion and although the FSB (formerly known as the KGB) failed to extract a confession a trial date was set. In the meantime he was fined on a criminal defamation charge, which he feared would be used as an aggravating circumstance in the original case.

Facing 15 years in prison he fled through Lithuania and ended up in Russia’s satellite state in the Mediterranean, where the authorities were certain to extradite him. Articles in a section of the local press (the Cyprus Mail and Politis) as well as pressure from the Reporters Without Borders organisation and human rights groups made the government reconsider.

Afraid to grant him political asylum as this would anger our Moscow masters and fearing a backlash from human rights groups, the interior minister decided the best policy was to send him back to Lithuania, on the grounds it was the first EU country Nekrasov had entered, when fleeing Russia and therefore it should make the decision on asylum. Unlike Kyproulla, Lithuania was very pleased to displease Moscow.

 

AS SOON as Loizidou heard about the justice minister’s plan to withdraw the extradition request, she immediately informed the Russian embassy in Nicosia, in an email marked ‘very very urgent’, advising it to inform the Cypriot authorities urgently if it had objections.

The woman was not prepared to allow anyone to escape the clutches of the Russian prosecutor, even when it was obvious they faced fabricated charges. Perhaps this was because the Russian embassy had written to her telling her it was “not happy with the current developments in Cyprus”, regarding Nekrasov.

Russia wanted to proceed with Nekrasov’s case and “hold a fair, reasonable and lawful judgement”, the embassy said, and Loizidou believed this. Interestingly, Loizidou did not display the same hard-boiled commitment regarding the extradition request by the US government for the Russian spy Christofer Metsos detained back in 2010. Her office did not object to his request for bail which was granted by the judge. Twenty-four hours later he was celebrating his escape in Moscow.

 

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Costas Clerides did not emerge from this affair smelling of roses as he tried to stand by his attorney when Politis reported about the hacking of Loizidou’s private email account and the posting of all her correspondence on a Russian website.

His first reaction was to order an investigation into the “probable theft of electronic communication” and to carry out a disciplinary investigation into Loizidou’s use of her private email account for official business. Rather than suspend her until the investigations were completed, he initially transferred her to another department. He had no intention of investigating the content of the emails, which indicated an excessive zeal in serving the Russian prosecutor.

In the end he asked the government to appoint an investigator, while the police were ordered to investigate the theft of the electronic communication. Thankfully, it is unlikely the hackers will be caught, because if they are Russian, they would be subject to a “fair, reasonable and lawful judgement”, which carries a 15-year prison sentence.

 

THERE is a small case of double standards here. When UN special envoy Al Downer’s email account was hacked in 2010 and all his correspondence made public, the then AG Petros Clerides saw no reason to order an investigation into the theft of “electronic communication”. The Aussie complained about this, especially as there were conventions protecting diplomatic correspondence, but our authorities did nothing. Three resourceful blokes cashed in by publishing a book containing Downer’s emails, titled ‘Simademeni Trapoula’ (Marked deck of cards). Nobody at the AG’s office took action even thought this was a criminal offence.

In a letter, distributed this week to all news media by lawyers representing Loizidou, it was pointed out that “the use of material that has been stolen (hacked) is a criminal offence, based on Article 3 of the 1996 Law on the Protection of the Confidentiality of Private Communications and is punished with five years’ imprisonment.”

Obviously, the law does not apply to the theft and use of private electronic communications of UN personnel. It can only be enforced when the publication of private communications causes embarrassment to Mother Russia and her local servants.

 

SPEAKING of double standards, the Russian embassy takes a very different position when a Russian national that is on good terms with the Putin government is held in custody in KDR (Kyproulla Democratische Republik).

Not so long ago, a Russian national against whom there was an international arrest warrant – not issued by the Russian Federation – was held at the Central Prison pending his extradition hearing. The man’s lawyer, repeatedly met AG Costas Clerides, urging him to grant his client bail. Clerides flatly refused, because of the danger of the man fleeing.

After the lawyer’s failure to persuade the AG, Russia’s ambassador Stanislav Osadchiy took over. He visited Clerides and urged him to grant bail. He eventually persuaded Clerides by giving him his personal guarantee that the Russian national would not flee the country if he were granted bail. Osadchiy’s personal guarantee proved worthless, as the suspect was on a plane out of the KDR within a few hours.

 

OUR BRAVEST politician of all time Dr Eleni Theocharous must have been very pleased with last Wednesday’s decision by the Council of Ministers to add another cop to her security detail. The fearless warrior for freedom now has three cops to protect her from imaginary threats and dangers.

She had put in a request for a third cop to the justice ministry after her website was hacked by a Turkish hacker group and visitors were redirected to a video featuring the speeches of Tayyip Erdogan. How a third cop, standing guard outside her house, running errands for her or chauffeuring her around will stop Turkish hackers from hacking her website again, not even Dr Eleni, who has answers to everything, can say.

She just used this as an excuse to demand another cop because all our politicians believe their importance is directly related to the number of men in their security detail. The cabinet did not have to grant this pathetic request, but Prez Nik wanted to keep Dr Eleni sweet because he might be asking for her Solidarity Party’s votes if Junior does not go through to the second round of the elections.

 

THE MAKARIOS Syndrome is not displayed exclusively by politicians. Phil, our top circulation rag, which was by far the most zealous supporter of Makarios went crazy over the trilateral summit of Egypt, Greece and Kyproulla.

Last Sunday it carried an interview with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on its front page under the headline “Cyprus a key partner (of Egypt).” Inside there was a big article on “The usefulness of the Cyprus Republic” as it helped us forge powerful alliances and another about “the historical element of Sisi(sic) visit”.

And of course there was also a leader article which concluded with the usual geostrategic platitudes that are an integral element of the Syndrome: For the Cyprus Republic and Greece these co-operations constitute the strengthening of their geopolitical and geostrategic positions. This strengthening constitutes the best answer to Turkey’s expansionist, maximalist plans against Hellenism.”

 

PRESIDENTIAL candidate Stavros Malas attacked the hardline candidates, accusing them of being “gravediggers of re-unification”. This was a bit rich considering his backer Akel, performed this role in 2004 when it decided to vote against reunification. Interestingly, Makarios, a relative of Malas, had used the similar soundbite in the early 70s to disparage Eoka B, whom he dismissed as the “gravediggers of enosis”. What is a shame is that there are not many people applying for the job of gravediggers of partition.

 

A NEW word relating to our national cheese was coined this week at the legislature. One deputy referred to halloumi that was not made with the 50 per cent sheep or goat’s milk as a halloumoid. It is not the first such word. We also had the halloumification of the Cyprob, relating to the rows between the two sides over who will certify its authenticity, also known as halloumicity. I would also like to propose a new word. A sandwich containing halloumi should be called a halloumich.

 

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