NICOSIA – Home to some 40,000 Russians and a favorite for Russian tourists, Russians on Cyprus opposed to their country’s invasion of Ukraine have found themselves targets of threats over their ongoing protests.
Russian influence is immense on the island, whose population of some 789,000 on the Greek-Cypriot side that’s a member of the European Union is nearly matched by the number of Russian tourists coming annually.
That was largely lost this year when Russian airlines were banned in the EU over sanctions for the invasion but so many Russians still live on the island or get there that some aren’t happy about the protests.
In a feature, the news agency Reuters said the nine regular demonstrators pledged not to back down to the intimidation, including their faces appearing on a billboard in the seaside town of Limassol with funereal black ribbons.
Ukrainian visitors also favor that town and the protests there that go on frequently draw a lot of attention from crowds that range from a few dozen to hundreds, the report said.
Their photos, each with a ribbon, had been set into a collage attached to a fence used for billboard announcements, together with three red candles set on a ledge, seen as a warning.
“It’s a memorial for people. In Russia its very common to make threats like this,” said one of those depicted, Evgenii Elesin, 38, one of the scores of thousands of Russians living in Cyprus.
The Russian embassy in Nicosia gave no immediate response following requests for comment from Reuters and there wasn’t any indication of who may have been behind the billboard posting.
“My friends from the Russian community sent me the photos,” said another protestor, Kristina Finck, 38. “The people who did it do not have good intentions … it was like a threat,” she added.
Cyprus police, who confiscated the collage, said they were seeking the perpetrator in connection with an investigation into data protection offenses but it wasn’t said if there was progress in the case.
Another activist, 42-year-old Natalia Boyko, said she would continue to organize and take part in protests and wouldn’t be deterred
“I feel very sorry for what my country is doing to my other family, the Ukrainian people … for me, it is the most shameful war, that brothers are killing brothers,” she told Reuters.