THE Russian embassy in Cyprus on Friday did not wish to go into detail over a story that has emerged this week concerning the fate of a sum of money from Russian investors for the ongoing construction of a cathedral in Limassol, as the funds sit in an account at the now liquidated FBME bank.
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail on Friday, a spokesman for the Russian embassy remained tight-lipped. “What had to be said on the matter has already been said.”
Though they did not wish to disclose the sum of money concerned, the embassy spokesman sought to clarify that works for the cathedral have not come to a halt but were delayed due to the ongoing issue with FBME.
The matter was brought to light earlier this week by Akel general-secretary Andros Kyprianou after a meeting in Russia with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who conveyed to him concerns that despite assurances from the Cypriot government that the issue would be addressed, nothing had happened.
As a consequence, plans to complete construction of a Russian cathedral in Limassol by 2019 have fallen far behind as the funds can no longer be accessed.
Alithia newspaper, which ran two stories over the week on the subject was told by government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou that there had been no move from the Russian government to their Cypriot counterparts in bringing up the matter however he did not exclude that contacts may have been made via the foreign ministry.
The daily also highlighted the significance of Lavrov bringing up the matter to Kyprianou which led to the issue entering the public fore rather than remain behind closed doors.
The administrator for FBME bank Kleovoulos Alexandrou spoke to Alithia and confirmed there was an existing account called Russian Orthodox Church managing the St Nicholas Fund. Though he was not at liberty to disclose the amount, he outlined it was neither a sum that was neither small nor large and that a significant portion of the amount has already gone towards the construction of the cathedral in Limassol. The funds fall under six names, a majority of which are Russian and one which appears to be Greek, according to the paper.
The cathedral is being built in Germasoyia, Limassol, more specifically in the Kaloyirous area, a more upscale part of the coastal city. Though the foundation stone was first laid in 2012 at the presence of Archbishop Chrysostomos and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, construction went into full swing in 2017, the year FBME went into liquidation.
According to Alexandrou, due to ongoing procedures at FBME, the funds cannot be accessed. More specifically, the Central Bank of Cyprus had submitted a request in court in February to become the liquidator of FBME. A hearing is slated for September 2019. It is only the liquidator who can determine how the assets and deposits will be distributed, Alexandrou noted to the paper.
Kyprianou had also made comments after the article was published on Wednesday that it was ridiculous that several stakeholders had claimed they were unaware of the situation – including the government spokesman and the mayors of Limassol and Germasoyia – hinting it wasn’t possible they were unaware. Though he refrained from naming anyone, he said Lavrov had named individuals that had been informed.