The respective camps of presidential candidates Averof Neophytou and Nikos Christodoulides squabbled on Thursday, accusing one another of getting bankrolled by foreign oligarchs, in a row sparked a day earlier by Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos.
Speaking at a gathering on Wednesday evening, Phedonos – of the ruling Disy party – said that Russian oligarchs are financing one of the candidates for the presidency.
He did not name the candidate or the alleged financiers, saying that he did not have first-hand knowledge in order to report the case to authorities.
But the mayor insisted his information is credible and had been “cross-checked.”
Phedonos claimed that Russian oligarchs were engaging in influence peddling in Cyprus and elsewhere. To back up his argument, he cited the ‘Russia Gate’ affair in the 2016 US elections, and specifically the case of Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager. He said Manafort had companies in Cyprus, through which the ‘Russian intervention’ in the US election was carried out.
Manafort had business dealings in Ukraine.
Going on, Phedonos said he disagrees with the financing of parties and candidates by businesspeople in general. But, he added, he might ‘excuse’ this support if it were Cypriot businesspeople, but not foreigners.
If the money comes from foreigners, he added, that “creates suspicions” about the interests of another country.
Phedonos next slammed independent candidate Nikos Christodoulides as well as the parties backing him. He asked how it was possible for these parties to have called the Anastasiades administration the most corrupt ever, but now they back Christodoulides, a member of that same government.
Even though the mayor did not specify which presidential candidate he was speaking of in relation to alleged slush funds from overseas, on Thursday Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos hit back, pointing the finger at Disy and its candidate Neophytou.
“The only one who demonstrably took money from Russian oligarchs is Mr Neofytou,” Papadopoulos claimed.
Pressed on the topic, Papadopoulos said he was referring to “the financing of the Democratic Rally [Disy] by Russian oligarchs who obtained [Cyprus] passports. This is a given, Disy have even admitted to it.”
That drew a swift response from Disy. In a statement, the party said “the donations received by our side are published in detail, as provided by law.”
Neophytou’s campaign funds come from the state grant to political parties, the statement added.
Disy in turn threw down the gauntlet at the Diko, Edek and Dipa parties, demanding that they likewise publish their source of funding for the Christodoulides candidacy.
“If they are not tapping into the state grant, as they have stated, then they must finally come clean and tell people how their expensive campaign is being financed.”