NICOSIA – In an open threat to Cyprus – home to vast amounts of Russian money socked away in the country’s banks – an angry Russian Ambassador Stanislav said there won’t be any tourists coming from his country after the island’s government backed European Union sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking to a local media outlet he said that Cyprus and the 26 other EU member states who put punishing financial sanctions on Russia made an economic mistake for themselves.
He said that Russian tourists, which are the second-biggest source of arrivals for Cyprus, behind the former Colonial ruler The United Kingdom, will now to to Turkey instead although they couldn’t go to the island anyway because the EU has banned Russian airlines from the bloc.
Despite evidence that the sanctions going after Russian banks and other financial sources were hurting – but so far haven’t extended to barring Russia from the SWIFT program for international transfers – he said they weren’t having any serious effect.
“If you ask me personally, (economic sanctions) do not worry us. Unfortunately, I think Europeans are shooting themselves in the foot. Where will they find natural gas, oil, wheat, how will Cyprus get Russian tourists? Russian tourists will not come. Where will these tourists go? They’ll go to Turkey, you want that? They’ll spend money there. Summer is coming. You have shut down Cyprus’ airspace? You have shot youselves in the foot,” he said in fluent Greek, in a clip from the interview posted on twitter by Yiota Hadjicosta, a journalist with Cyprus’ Politis newspaper.
“#Russian Ambassador to Cyprus openly threatened #Cyprus in an interview with a local media outlet. Unbelievable! #Ukraine #Russia,” Hadjicosta tweeted.
Osadchiy, 71, has been Ambassador to Cyprus since 2013; before that, he was Ambassador to Austria and Consul-General in Hamburg, Germany and Istanbul, knowing the Turkish political landscape well.
Cyprus’ Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said the Greek-Cypriot government is trying to assess the likely effect of losing Russian tourists and airlines and travel groups, said Kathimerini.
THE BIG TURKISH IF
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides earlier said Cyprus backed the sanctions after initial reports there was reluctance because of the important financial ties that bring in so much Russian money that the island has been called Moscow on the Med.
But Kasoulides indicated that Cyprus might break with the bloc if Turkey allows in Russian airlines and tourists, showing how critical the Russian money is on the island, where there’s Russian investors too and those who bought residence permits that came with EU passports before the program was halted over a scandal and failure to vet it for criminals and money laundering.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Karousos said Cyprus estimated that air traffic to and from Russia was about 1.3 million arrivals a year, which is albout 15 percent of Cyprus’ total air traffic, the country trying to accelerate recover from the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
was in the region of 1.3 million this year, which could amount to 15% of
“We believe that this([air traffic) will be lost if the situation continues,” Karousos said, noting that since the pandemic began two years ago that there’s been moves to improve air connections.
“This is yielding results and in 2021 we had more destinations compared with 2019,” the minister added, pointing out that statistics showed Cyprus had one of the lowest reductions in air connectivity, the paper reported.
“The aim is to offset the impact we will have from the Russian and the Ukrainian market with other destinations,” he said, without specifying them and what will happen if soaring fuel prices over markets fears from the invasion will limit air travel if seat costs spike.
Karousos said, “We are in contact with airlines to provide more options and other destinations and we are doing everything possible to offset any impact by this decision,” but didn’t give any details.
Cypriot airports officials said there were 20 flights per week expected from Russia in March, up to 6.5 percent of air traffic, which was set to double starting in April as more tourists will begin arriving.