Washington says there is no new policy to announce regarding a recent arms embargo lift on the Republic of Cyprus, following news that US sanctions have been imposed on several dealers including individuals who are based on the island.
The US State Department this week blacklisted 22 individuals and entities across many countries including Cyprus, with full blocking sanctions in response to allegations of taking part in a sanctions evasion network supporting Russia’s military-industrial complex.
According to State Department Principal Deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel, the action taken on Wednesday “was about designating individuals and entities across multiple jurisdictions who are connected to a sanctions evasion network supporting Russia’s defense sector, including prominent arms dealer Igor Vladimirovich Zimenkov.”
'The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior'
Zimenkov, who is based in Cyprus, was said to have worked along his son Jonathan to enable Russian defense sales to third-country governments.
A number of Cypriot companies that were also named in the press release were said to have been linked to another Cyprus-based individual, Alexander Volfovich, who was being accused of “having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Igor Zimenkov.”
“It has become increasingly difficult for Russia’s military-industrial complex to resupply the Kremlin’s war machine, forcing it to rely on nefarious suppliers such as the DPRK and Iran,” Patel told a press conference on Wednesday.
Patel was responding to a question by a journalist who pointed out that “the United States lifted arms embargoes on Cyprus as part of their commitment to crackdown on money laundering and keeping distance with the Russian military and defense sector.”
“We still see that the Greek Cypriot side is a safe haven for money laundering and also evasion of Russian sanctions. Are you ready to reconsider the lifting of embargoes on Cyprus?” the reporter asked.
Last October US President Joe Biden ordered an arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus to be fully removed, essentially allowing Cypriots to buy American lethal weapons. The lift would be in effect for one year or as long as certain conditions aimed at keeping Russian influence at bay were being met by Nicosia.
“As I said, I don’t have any new policy to announce today,” Patel responded.
In a press release, the State Department said “the ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior.”