Cyprus’ tourism has lost a billion euros thanks to placing sanctions and closing its skies to Russian aircraft, according to Russia’s ambassador in Nicosia Murat Zyazikov.

Zyazikov was speaking to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Cyprus’ Russian-language newspaper.

“Unfortunately, direct flights between our country, and as a result, about 800,000 Russians are actually missing from the island. According to the statistical service of the Republic [of Cyprus], the average tourist spends €88 per day, although Russians, due to their deep Russian souls, spend much more,” he said.

“Russians arriving here from third countries increasingly prefer to relax in the northern part of the island, which is under the control of the Turkish Cypriots, where hotel and transport infrastructure is developing rapidly and prices are lower.”

Delving deeper into the now strained Cyprus-Russia relations, he said “unfortunately, [Cyprus’] involvement in the anti-Russian games of the West could not do anything but affect our bilateral cooperation in some sectors.

“It is obvious that this situation is politically motivated and, in fact, imposed by the European Union. Otherwise, it is difficult to explain from the point of view of basic logic why [Cyprus] voluntarily takes measures which cause enormous damage to its leading industry, I mean, tourism,” he said.

He added, “we are well aware of the rejection by the majority of Cypriot citizens of the anti-Russian bacchanalia unleashed by the West.”

He said that ordinary Cypriots demonstrate a truly warm and welcoming attitude towards Russians and Russian culture everywhere, “from everyday communication with us to the corridors of government institutions”.

He also expressed disappointment that Cyprus is applying sanctions, which he described as “illegal”.

He mentioned that Russia has created a list of states it considers unfriendly and which have imposed “illegal” restrictions, and described his own country’s foreign policy as “peaceful, open, predictable, consistent, and realistic”.

Moving onto the issue of the Cyprus problem, he said Russia’s position is “unchanged”.

“We firmly support a comprehensive, sustainable, and just settlement through the recognised international framework. At the same time, we consider it important that the final decision be made by the islanders themselves, taking into account the interests and legitimate concerns of both communities, regardless of who takes the initiative,” he said.

“I find it unacceptable to externally impose specific time frames and ready-made ‘recipes’ on [the people of Cyprus], and much more unacceptable to pressure them to accept this or that option.”