Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinionTales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: ‘Russia is just a victim of Western conspiracies’

ΠτΔ – Επίσημο δείπνο // por – official dinn
Prez Nik holds court during a dinner in Estonia as part of his visit, which was 'absolutely satisfactory' (PIO)

A FRIEND, I had not heard from for months called me on Thursday saying he needed psychological support, because “I do not know if I am going mad or the world around me has gone mad.”

I guessed it was the latter because he has a holiday home in Paphos and he had probably spent the Easter weekend there, but I was only partially right. What was causing him to go mad, I asked, and I got a one-word answer – Ukraine.

“I kept having arguments with people about the war in Ukraine. First, I had a row with my neighbours who insisted that Putin was in the right. Then I went to my local tavern and I had a big argument with the owner because he declared with absolute certainty that the Brits and the Americans were to blame.”

I told him that Paphos is Makarios land, where people had been brainwashed to hate the West and consider the Soviet Union a force of good, an idea passed on from one generation to the next. The only thing that has changed was that Putin was now the force of good.

“But it is not just Paphos,” he said. “Yesterday I went to my local kebab shop, and I got the same mad theories. These guys talk as if it were the US and Britain that invaded Ukraine; Russia is just a victim of Western conspiracies.”

 

I INFORMED him that, a few weeks ago, I also had an argument about Ukraine with the owner of the kebab shop that I go to in Nicosia. I do not even remember what we had argued about, but when I visited three days ago we discussed the snooker world championship.

It is not only the kebab shop owners of Nicosia that are pro-Putin. A few days after the Russian invasion, I was at an eatery in old Nicosia and the owner, as part of his social chit-chat, informed me that news media did not report the truth about the war.

“Have you heard about the Azov battalions,” he asked. “Yes,” I said, “and I know Putin has invaded to free Ukraine of the neo-Nazis that are funded by the US, Britain and Nato, installed a Jew as president and pose a big threat to Russian security.”

He may have thought I was mad, but it ended his attempt to enlighten me about the real cause of the war, which had nothing to do with Russia’s invasion.

 

ANTI-WEST sentiment, instigated and funded for decades by the Soviet Union, through Akel’s propaganda machinery has very deep roots in Kyproulla.

It is demonstrated on a daily basis by the state broadcaster, which in its news broadcasts, invariably, gives prominence to the Russian version of events in Ukraine, which most presenters deliver in a defiant tone, implying ‘the Russians showed the Yanks.’ Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is treated as a political deity by Cybc’s news editors.

An excellent example of the anti-West propaganda, that disguises the pro-Putin sentiments of Akel was Neophytos Neophytou’s Friday column in the party mouthpiece Haravghi. “No intention at all exists on the part of the US and Britain to end the war and bloodshed in Ukraine. They are insistently refusing to come into any diplomatic contact or dialogue with Russia,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately, though the US and Britain have the leading role in the militarisation of the problem and are fomenting the war confrontation.” Russia only has minor role, a bit-part, in the militarisation of the problem, because as my mad friend said, Britain and the US invaded Ukraine.

 

ANOTHER friend of mine appears to have been touched by madness this week. Perhaps I should choose my friends more carefully.

I refer to the former rector of the University of Cyprus, Constantinos Christofides who announced on Friday that he will be standing in the 2023 presidential elections, the candidate of New Wave – The Other Cyprus. Smart, articulate, honest and a doer, Christofides ticks all the boxes for a good president, but without party backing he is unlikely to get very far.

His announcement brought the number of candidates so far, to six, Disy chief Averof being the only party candidate. All others are independents, some of them hoping that Akel, which is still searching for a candidate, could be persuaded to back them.

Christofides, to his credit, does not entertain such hopes. When he was rector he had several public run-ins with the comrades, who were trying to dictate the policies of the university and met with his resistance. He had also accused Akel of having a policy of championing mediocrity, for which he will never be forgiven.

He might not find a party to back, but his mischievous forthrightness will make the debates of the candidates much more entertaining.

 

THE LACK of decisiveness of the Akel chief, Stef-Stef appears to have infected the party which still does not have a clue who its candidate will be. Currently, it is in discussions with the former negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis and my friend Achilleas Demetriades.

I hope mentioning which candidates are my friends will not negatively affect their electability, but I feel, ethically, I have a duty to disclose such information, Not that I would be recommending any of the candidates to our customers come the elections. I am embarrassed to say this but think I have relinquished the right to recommend anyone for the presidency after backing Prez Nik in 2013. Note: Former foreign minister Erato Kozakou Markoulli has not given up hope of being the Akel candidate, regularly making public statements to remind the comrades that she is available if the two men they are considering are not anti-West enough.

 

HAS DEAR old Phil decided to throw its full weight behind the candidacy that has not been announced yet, or is its political correspondent, Andreas Bimbishis acting on his own initiative in putting his name to unsubtle puff pieces for Nikos Christodoulides.

Bimbishis’ zealotry is astounding, presenting Christodoulides as Mr Perfection. On April 23, he wrote that one of the reasons the efforts of Akel and Diko to forge an election alliance failed, was the “backing Christodoulides has among the people of Diko.” He was “in control of the game now.”

On April 26, the Paphite’s chief cheerleader reported that his hero “maintains a steady lead of 20 percentage points over Averof Neophytou.” An “opinion poll conducted recently showed that Nicos Christodoulides remains steadily in first place in the preferences of citizens and is the only one who concentrates 30 per cent.” Bimbishis did not bother to reveal the company that conducted this mysterious opinion poll and on whose behalf.

On April 27, Bimbishis reported the “three advantages of Christodoulides” and wrote: “The common reference point in all opinion polls, published or secret ones on behalf of parties/candidates, is the high percentage that Nikos Christodoulides maintains with a massive difference from the second (candidates).”

With such an unassailable lead there is no point wasting the taxpayer’s money on elections.

 

THE THREE advantages cited in Bimbishis’ objective report were: 1) broad appeal, taking votes from all parties including 44 per cent of Disy voters; 2) “settled vote” which Bimbishis explains is the voting preference that will not change and his hero recorded a very high percentage of this without announcing his candidacy; 3) young voters, the majority of whom express a preference for Bimbishis’ hero.

I could propose many more advantages if Bimbishis runs out of things to put in his puff pieces next week. He has a pretty face, he is a Paphite, he can talk for hours and say nothing, he loyally and dutifully served Prez Nik for nine years, he put Turkey in the dock, he upgraded the geostrategic importance of Kyproulla, he introduced gender diplomacy, economic diplomacy, culture diplomacy, gastronomic diplomacy….

 

IF THEY were not so annoying, you would feel a little sympathy for the members of the scientific team who achieved celebrity status during the pandemic doggedly trying to hold on to their covid fame.

On Friday Dr Zoe Dorothea Pana gave an interview to our own Tass news agency, admitting that the situation had improved but keeping project fear alive. Asked if we were nearing the end of the pandemic, she said, “unfortunately, nobody can confirm this,” before warning: “This period we have entered a different phase, without this meaning that this picture cannot be overturned.”

She was hoping for some normality, “without this meaning the coronavirus can be eliminated.” And without this meaning that the scientific team can be scrapped. I suspect that eliminating the scientists’ hunger of public fame will be more difficult to eliminate than the coronavirus.

 

PREZ NIK reminded me of the late great Spy Kyp, when he was commenting about his official visit to Estonia. “I want to express my absolute satisfaction because through the meetings we discerned a commonality of positions on significant number of issues and in particular the problem of Cyprus, but also the problem of Ukraine.” In his heyday as prez, Kyp would announce, with a straight face, after visiting India, that in India there was full understanding of the Cyprob. And look where that got us.

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