A Cypriot mayor has issued an open invitation to Ukrainians of Greek descent to settle in his town under a new master plan, saying better educated and more civilized newcomers would assimilate easier than other refugee groups on the island.
Paphos Mayor Phedonas Phedonos embarked on a social media campaign over the weekend calling on people with Greek background to relocate from Ukraine’s Black Sea coast to Cyprus.
“Many Greeks from Ukraine will leave Ukraine as refugees in the near future (Mariupol and Odessa). They could come to Cyprus, as the Greek Pontians came from Georgia in the past,” Phedonos wrote in statement on Facebook which also appeared under the comment sections of other public figures, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Egyptian investor Naguib Sawiris.
Greeks killed in Mariupol over weekend
Over a dozen ethnic Greeks were either killed or injured over the weekend in Mariupol, with Athens blaming Moscow based on information that people were killed by Russian air strikes.
Greeks living in Mariupol and the broader area have been among civilians facing uncertainty as Ukraine’s future was uncertain after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, with fears escalating tenfold after Russia invaded the former USSR state last week.
'These people are much more educated and cultured compared to anyone else who ends up in Cyprus as a refugee'
But Phedonos said he has been trying for five years to bring Greeks from Mariupol to Paphos “in order to strengthen the population and the workforce of our city.”
“These people are much more educated and cultured compared to anyone else who ends up in Cyprus as a refugee. Apart from the humanitarian element, which many refer to as refugees of various nationalities, such as the Syrians, in this case there is a common difference of common ethnic origin,” Phedonos wrote.
The mayor said under a new master plan for a specific area within the city of Paphos there would be 1200 new homes for 5000 new inhabitants, saying a proposal had been presented to the interior ministry three and a half years ago.
“In the current difficult circumstances, let this proposal be the basis for us to move forward,” Phedonos said.
Athens points to Russian air strikes, Moscow blames local nationalists
The Russian Embassy in Athens said there was no air operation in the Mariupol area over the weekend and went on to blame nationalist elements within the Ukrainian army for attacking civilians.
But Athens has publicly accused Moscow of killing Diaspora Greeks through bombing of civilians.
A Greek reporter on Monday morning told a state radio program in Nicosia that Athens declined to share more information but in a Sunday phone call with US State Secretary Antony Blinken, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias reportedly joined his American counterpart in condemning “Russia’s attacks on civilian targets.”
In mid-February two Greek expats were also shot and killed by Ukrainian soldiers in the same region where tens of thousands of Greeks live in the wider area. News media at the time said the incident was unrelated to the crisis while other reports said politics getting out of hand was behind an unfortunate shooting incident.