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26 May, 2024
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Zelensky wants Cyprus to get tough on island’s Russians

Ukrainian president calls on Cypriot lawmakers to continue support for Ukraine, House speaker offers rebuttal


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is urging the Republic of Cyprus to strip Russians of their golden passports “without exception” and only ease up on dual citizens if they condemn what he called “war crimes of their military” in Ukraine.

In a plea during an address to the Cypriot parliament via video link, Zelensky on Thursday thanked Cyprus for banning Russian warships from docking on the island.

Following a series of speeches to foreign legislatures and the European Parliament to garner support after Russia's invasion in Ukraine, Zelensky appeared on the big screen in Nicosia where he told Cypriot lawmakers their island had “extremely powerful tools to influence Russian society.”

“A unique force that can be put to serve peace,” he said.

Zelensky told parliament he was grateful for the Cypriot people’s “principled position” along with the European Union’s response to “Russia’s full-scale invasion.”

Zelensky told parliament he was grateful for the Cypriot people’s 'principled position' but suggested Cyprus could do more

Last month the Republic of Cyprus denied access to Russian frigates and support vessels, with Nicosia suspending a previous agreement with Moscow citing the ongoing war in Ukraine.

But the Ukrainian president said Cyprus could do more, such as closing ports to all Russian vessels including yachts.

“At the state-level, it is also possible to at least freeze the use by Russians of all their yachts and other vessels in your waters,” Zelensky said.

The president went on to call on Nicosia to “suspend the current privileges for Russian citizens, starting from the so called golden passports,” referring to those who obtained citizenship through the island’s disgraced investment program.

Zelensky said Russian nationals with golden passports should be stripped of their Cypriot citizenship “without exceptions” and also called on the government to end dual citizenship for Russian nationals.

“Perhaps if it is verified and clearly proven that some of them condemn the war crimes of their military and do not intend to use your jurisdiction to avoid sanctions and other restrictions against Russia, only then it will be permissible to treat these people in the old way,” Zelensky suggested.

During the speech, the Ukrainian president stated “the democratic world has united in its negative attitude towards Russia,” adding that reactions towards Moscow in previous years had been “very weak.”

“Years have taught the world that this was all a mistake and the invasion of Ukraine on February 24 this year showed that the Russian leadership perceived the good attitude of other states as a weakness,” Zelensky said.

“Can such behavior go unpunished?” he asked.

“Is it right that the Russian state and its citizens are trying to use your island to their advantage while trying to destroy another nation?” he asked.

The president ended his speech by saying “I’m sure you feel our pain and that is why I believe that you will continue to support Ukraine, including on the road to the European Union, on the way to our common peace.”

“Thank you for your support, glory to Ukraine,” Zelensky said.

House Speaker offers rebuttal but connection is lost

House Speaker Annita Demetriou, who offered a rebuttal speech, told Zelensky her country understood “very well” what Ukraine was going through.

“Because the same invasion was perpetrated in 1974 in Cyprus by different actors, by Turkey,” Demetriou said, adding that the island along with Ukraine were both “victims of invasion and occupation by a more powerful neighboring country.”

Cyprus is split between an internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot south representing the Republic of Cyprus and a Turkish Cypriot north recognized only by Turkey. A UN peacekeeping force was established on the island in 1964 while Turkish troops landed ten years later in response to a short-lived, Greek-inspired coup.

At one point during her closing remarks, Demetriou said she was not sure if Zelensky was still listening in but reports said her response would be relayed to the Ukrainian president in writing.

Media sources said the image of the Ukrainian president disappeared from the screen when he got disconnected.

The special session was attended by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who made comments on the speech including the lack of any mention of the events of 1974.

"We are disturbed by the fact that there was no mention of it," Anastasiades said.

House representatives from main left opposition party AKEL boycotted the meeting, saying they were bothered by the appearance of a self-styled member of the Azov Regiment who appeared in a video hours earlier during Zelensky’s address to the Greek parliament.

Cyprus  |  Ukraine  |  war  |  invasion  |  Russia  |  parliament  |  golden passport  |  sanctions  |  Zelensky

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