Greek edition of Tovim told about the tragic situation in which 40,000 Russians who settled in Cyprus found themselves.
“Limasograd” is what the 40,000 Russians living there call Limassol. Anyone who first came to this city, seeing dozens of shops with Russian signs, supermarkets selling Russian products, restaurants with the famous Russian salad, will think that he is somewhere in Russia.
And if he still happens to hear Russian-language programs with Russian pop music on the radio station, he will ask what is happening here? Limassol became a Russian region? Russian newspapers hang on the stands. Most Russians in Limassol had and still have ties to their homeland. But now they face deportation.
The war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia, the seizure of Russian property in Limassol drove them to despair. And the city with the strongest economy in the Middle East region is in decline.
In a difficult situation
Russia’s war against Ukraine is increasingly putting Cyprus in a difficult position. The airspace over the island is closed to Russian aircraft. The Russians are stuck in “Limasograd”, as they call it as a consolation. If this continues for long, the Cypriot tourism industry will have to count on hard days, as before the war, many Russians considered Cyprus to be their second home. They secured their stay with the notorious “golden passports”, which have long been a profitable business for the Cypriot government.
Those who invested two and a half million euros, for example, in luxury real estate, received free citizenship, regardless of how they got this money. No one checked them to see if they were criminals, arms dealers or dark personalities with suitcases of money who became candidates for a “golden passport”. The program closed two years ago after a corruption scandal.
Sanctions against Russia directly affected the Russian community in Limassol, whose bank accounts were frozen overnight, and as a result, the Cypriot economy lost a significant source of income. The people are now even more angry with the authorities than at the time when Cyprus arranged a “haircut of deposits”.
At that time, the Cypriot government, in order to calm the reaction of the Russians, provided the victims with a number of shares in their own banks as compensation for losses caused by the reduction in deposits. The Russians did not leave then, they continued their work, continued to build skyscrapers, more and more people came to the country, who brought with them a lot of money.
Belarusians also came to Cyprus, who preferred Nicosia. A group of Belarusian businessmen, owners of the company wargaming, built in Nicosia, in the area of Agia Omologites, near the presidential palace, a skyscraper in the shape of a shark’s wing. Inside it, famous games from the World of Tanks / World of Warships series are produced and managed for the whole world. The company is now in trouble and is trying to find another place to move its business. And this means that another large company with a turnover of hundreds of millions of euros per year will leave Cyprus.
Limassol has been a magnet for many Eastern Bloc money launderers. No one in Cyprus forgets the presence of Milosevic (leader of Yugoslavia) in Limassol with his lawyers and his trips to the banks (with suitcases full of money). When there was a reduction in the deposit in Cyprus and the memorandum was activated, some Greek businessmen were found there (along with one or two politicians) who were illegally transferring money to Cyprus.
But the end of the privileged economic regime of the Russians came not only with the threat EU impose sanctions on “golden passports” or cut deposits, but also with real US blackmail when the State Department demanded clarification on the Russians and suspicious deposits in exchange for lifting the US arms embargo on Cyprus. The government of the island of Aphrodite did this, since Turkey openly threatens this country, and then the American marines and American warships first appeared in the port of Limassol in joint exercises with the National Guard of Cyprus (it is worth noting that they were in Cyprus in 1974, when Turkey annexed part of the island, and then it did little to help the Cypriots).
With the start of the war a lot of people began to come to Limassol Ukrainians. They began to clash with the Russian community, and now the peaceful coexistence of Russians and Ukrainians in Limassol has become a difficult task. It is estimated that more than 10,000 more Ukrainians recently arrived in Limassol, determined to confront the Russians, and now representatives of these two peoples live like on a powder keg.
At the same time, for Russians in Limassol hard days have come due to the consequences of Western sanctions. It’s not just that they don’t have any more money (since all their accounts are frozen), and it’s not that they stopped building skyscrapers and closed their business. People were simply left without a livelihood. Money transfers from Russia stopped. Business is up. Someone is already trying to escape from the island, but this is not so easy now. What will happen next, nobody knows…
Only one thing is clear so far, the good times for Cyprus are already in the past…