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Cyprus described as Kremlin collaborator by European think tank

File photo: President Nicos Anastasiades with Vladimir Putin

By George Psyllides

Cyprus has been described as a Kremlin collaborator in a report compiled by the European Values think tank whose aim is to expose and confront instruments of Russian influence and disinformation operations.

Cyprus, along with Greece, ranked in Group E, or ‘Kremlin collaborators’, over their perceived failure to politically acknowledge the threat and launch counter actions, showing “no meaningful resistance to Russia’s subversive activities.”

The think tank, said country profiles detailing the state of play in individual EU members were compiled using policy reviews, media analyses, and independent expert data.

Cyprus is considered a Kremlin-friendly country, does not feel threatened and is advocating better relations with Russia.

It “often supports Kremlin’s foreign policy objectives, such as stopping further sanctions under arguments related to appeasement or alleged business ties.”

Cyprus, according to the think tank, belongs to a group of countries, which do not perceive any threat coming from Russia and keep a close relationship with the regime.

It suggests that the reasons behind this could be that Russia supported the integrity of the island since the Soviet era, which makes Moscow a key foreign partner of Nicosia.

“Cyprus is also Russia’s primary offshore banking haven, home to 40.000 Russians and a popular destination for Russian tourists.”

But according to the report, there is a continuing Russian intelligence’s activity on the island and “the Cypriot side fears that Moscow is using social and mass media and its ties to fringe nationalist parties and the Greek Orthodox Church to undermine the settlement talks.”

A similar issue recently emerged in Greece in July.

Greece said in July it had expelled two Russian diplomats and barred two other people from entering the country for trying to bribe officials and foment demonstrations to thwart a deal to allow Macedonia to join NATO.

Russia flatly denied the allegations but it said would retaliate in kind.

In Cyprus meanwhile, there has been no official indication of acknowledgement of Russian influence operations and disinformation campaigns in any policy document.

“However, there have been voices expressing concerns about Russian meddling into the peace settlement between the parts of the island. Still, the bilateral relations with Russia stay on a high level, even regardless of the events in Ukraine.”

Cyprus also appears willing to help Russia evade EU sanctions, according to the report.

Seventeen MEPs signed a letter for President Nicos Anastasiades claiming Cyprus was “neglecting its duties under the European directives to combat money laundering.”

The OCCRP project found that relating to the Paradise Papers cases, Cypriot banks received around $871m in Russian laundered funds between 2011 and 2014. “Russian influence thus continues unimpeded.”

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