Russia could not have expected Cyprus to disagree with Europe’s collective decisions and ought to engage in a little self-criticism, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Thursday.
Responding to statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Moscow had noted the transformation of Cyprus’ leadership, Anastasiades said Cyprus could not be the “dissenter of Europe” when it came to sanctions against Russia.
“The problem is to engage in self-criticism over why some countries, some unions of states like the EU possibly took the measures they did,” he said. “But at the same time I want to point out that when the otherwise friendly country – Russia – forced us to follow the collective decisions of the EU, it could not have expected that we could be the dissenter of Europe, that is, those who disagree with the collectively decided measures.”
Anastasiades said he wanted to maintain the friendly relation Cyprus had with Russia and he expressed gratitude for the long-standing position “that Russia has maintained and maintains” as regards the Cyprus issue along with the understanding from Russia’s side that there were no options when international law was violated.
On Wednesday, Lavrov made comments after he was asked to respond to those who believe that Russia is behaving as other imperial powers have done before – violating international law, occupying territory, and changing borders.
“I don’t know what Greece and Cyprus are suffering more from, we were always very close friends with the Greeks and Cypriots and those transformations – in the leadership of those countries – it’s only natural that we’ve made note of this,” he was quoted as saying.
In his comments, published by the Cyprus News Agency late on Wednesday, the Russian foreign minister further claimed that the US, its various satellites, and Nato countries had long been gathering forces to begin a global hybrid war against Russia.
He referred to Cyprus as being amongst the countries that had either been forced or willingly submitted to the will of the US.
In his criticism of the EU on Wednesday, Lavrov said that no one in Europe should now speak of strategic autonomy, claiming that the US has supreme influence over its policies.
He further argued that Russia’s aims are to ensure its safety and security.
Cyprus has gotten on board with EU sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, something which has divided public opinion on the island.
In June, a Eurobarometer survey on the war showed that only 50 per cent of Cypriots agree with EU’s sanctions against Russia as opposed to a whopping 80 per cent EU average.
Moreover, 36 per cent of Cypriots view Russia positively, whilst the EU average stands at 10 per cent and marks a significant drop from 2018, when it stood at 30 per cent.
At the same time, 80 per cent of Cypriots believe that their day-to-day lives will be adversely affected by the Russian invasion in Ukraine as opposed to the 60 per cent EU average. In Greece, the figure stands at 86 per cent.
However, American media have earlier this week criticised the island on its stance with Russia.
In an airing of a news programme on CBS, Cyprus was characterised as “one of the weakest links” in international efforts to seize the assets of sanctioned Russian nationals, while the island hosts dozens of active shell companies that can be traced back to Russian oligarchs.
Earlier this week CBS aired their latest 60 Minutes special on seizing Russian assets, with a 13-minute segment dedicated to Cyprus. Featured in the segment were Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides and Greens MP Alexandra Attalides.
“Cyprus is in the middle of an international game of hide and seek,” CBS said in its intro, adding that the island “became as famous for its opaque banking as for its clear water.”
Describing the island as a favourable tax haven for moving assets, Attalides told 60 Minutes: “I think that they [Russian oligarchs] found a fertile ground here that helped them.”
An analyst for Transparency International, a non-profit that tracks international money laundering, Maira Martini said Cyprus offers the secrecy that oligarchs and criminals are looking for.