CYPRUS: Cyprus president declares ‘zero tolerance’ policy on evasion of Russia sanctions

As published on: apnews.com, Tuesday 20 June, 2023.

The president of Cyprus on Tuesday affirmed a “zero tolerance” policy toward any Cypriot citizen or company helping to evade international sanctions imposed on Russia following last year’s invasion of Ukraine.

President Nikos Christodoulides underscored his administration’s mission to safeguard Cyprus’ name as a “credible business and financial center” after the U.S. and the U.K. recently included a handful of Cypriot nationals and Cyprus-registered companies on a list of “enablers” helping Russian oligarchs skirt sanctions.

Christodoulides told a news conference on his administration’s first 100 days in office that the issue affords Cyprus an opportunity to rebrand itself as a financial node connecting “East and West, the European market with the Middle East, Asia and Africa.”

“The credibility of our country abroad is extremely important so that we can attract quality investments that would bring revenue to our country, create new, quality jobs and much more,” Christodoulides said.

The U.S. and the U.K. unveiled on April 12 and again on May 19 a list including Cypriot lawyers, businessmen and companies they said were part of a “sanctions evasion network” supporting Russian billionaires Alisher Usmanov and Roman Abramovich in 20 countries.

The lists sent the Cypriot government scrambling to shore up a tattered reputation, offering assurances that the country was now firmly on the straight and narrow.

Christodoulides said Cyprus “is on the right side of history” in its full support of international sanctions against Russia since Cyprus has itself suffered similar consequences as Ukraine following a 1974 Turkish invasion that split the island nation along ethnic lines.

The invasion was triggered by a coup aiming at union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the island’s northern third.

But the Cypriot president appeared to rule out any move to cede its aging stock of Soviet-era T-80 main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and anti-aircraft missile batteries to Ukraine in exchange for newer Western military equipment.

Christodoulides said his administration wouldn’t “take any action that would leave the Cyprus Republic without armed forces” while Turkey continues to maintain more than 35,000 troops in the north.

He said the government is focusing on buttressing the country’s naval and air assets, without offering any details.

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