NICOSIA – Cyprus wants an exemption from European Union sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine to lease Russian-made helicopters designed to fight fires.
The Foreign Ministry has been in touch with EU officials, said The Cyprus Mail, wanting the Russian helicopters in case it can’t otherwise get aerial firefighting equipment, without explaining why not.
The EU sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine have created problems for the fire service, Kadis said, with Cyprus’ needs more important than holding Russia to account for the invasion.
“Our ministry is doing everything it can to ensure our readiness, especially due to the extraordinary circumstances arising this year with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the subsequent restrictions on cooperation with any bodies with links to Russian interests,” he added.
If that doesn’t get approved, he said there’s a backup plan as “within days we begin negotiations with other interested bodies in order to reach an agreement, with the goal of securing two helicopters and two planes as soon as possible, early June if possible”.
He said that the forestry department has two aircraft at its disposal and is expecting two more to arrive from Spain on May 13. In addition, “this year we also have a helicopter from the National Guard and another from the police, while efforts are being made to secure additional aircraft, through transnational cooperation,” the report added.
He later told state broadcaster Cybc that around 110 additional forest firefighters will be hired as well to further aid the firefighting forces but said that the Russian helicopters are a “matter of national security.”
Cyprus earlier said it might consider also seeking an exemption against the sanction that bars Russian airlines because the island is so reliant on Russian tourists and investors.
“The foreign minister has already been briefed on the matter, and steps are being taken in Brussels in order to allow the Republic of Cyprus to lease the Russian helicopters for this year’s firefighting needs,” he said, although that could set a precedent for other EU countries to seek exemptions for other needs.