A national sanctions implementation unit will be set up in Cyprus, which will cooperate with the respective department in the UK, the government announced on Wednesday.

The decision came at the behest of President Nikos Christodoulides who was informed on what steps need to be undertaken to set up this unit. It will have technocratic support from its British counterpart.

According to government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis, the president has also asked for a roadmap detailing the course of action Cyprus needs to take in light of the recent sanctions from the US and UK.

The decisions were taken during a lengthy meeting at the presidential palace at noon on Wednesday, which lasted for well over an hour. Attending the meeting were the deputy attorney general, central bank of Cyprus governor and the ministers of finance, justice and foreign affairs.

During the meeting it emerged that in the last few years, 43,000 shell companies which were operating in Cyprus have shut down, as have 123,000 bank accounts. The briefing came from central bank of Cyprus governor Constantinos Herodotou.

He said that currently, only 2.2 per cent of deposits have Russian nationals as final beneficiaries.

Letymbiotis stressed the government is sending a “clear message” that the credibility of the country must be preserved, and that no EU sanction evasion will be tolerated.

The statement stems from the fact that the US and UK sanctions announced last week, named 23 Cypriots and 20 companies as being “financial fixers” for Russian oligarchs Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov that ultimately supported “Putin on the battlefield” and were ultimately sanctioned.

Cyprus’ authorities have coordinated and contacted the relevant authorities in the US and UK on both a technocratic and political level so as to find the most efficient and effective channels to share the evidence to the legal service, Letymbiotis added.

The attorney general’s office will then be tasked with assessing whether the Cypriots violated EU sanctions and thus face criminal charges.

Letymbiotis also heralded the positive reactions from the UK High Commissioner and US State Department on the cooperation with Cyprus.

Meanwhile, European Commission coordinating spokesperson Arianna Podesta told the Cyprus News Agency they could not comment on whether the EU would be moving to adopt the US and UK sanctions.

She specified EU sanctions are agreed by unanimity of all member states.

“What I can say is that we are in contact with all member states regarding the application of the sanctions.”

She noted EU sanctions are “mainly a tool of foreign and security policy” and that the European Commission does not comment on future plans regarding possible sanctions.