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Cyprus hesitant to impose more sanctions on Russia

18 March, 2014

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said that Cyprus supports the sovereignty of Ukrain, but there needs to be a political solution to the crisis and a realistic approach that would take the interest of all EU members into consideration.
European ministers agreed to impose sanctions against 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine, including travel bans and asset freezes, after Sunday's controversial referendum in Crimea, when 96% of voters backed leaving Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.
Crimea's parliament already declared independence from Ukraine on Monday and asked to join Russia.
Kiev's government, as well as the EU and the US have condemned the referendum as illegal and have urged Russia to negotiate directly with Ukraine and to allow in observers and mediators.
Further measures are expected to be taken later this week, when EU leaders meet in Brussels for the last scheduled EU Summit before the European elections.
In his intervention at the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Monday, Kasoulides supported the deployment of OSCE observers to Ukraine and underlined that diplomatic efforts must focus on averting escalation of the crisis in the regions of Western and Southern Ukraine.
He stressed that there must be a series of actions towards the government of Kiev. The Ukrainian government must adopt a series of good-will measures towards the Russian speaking population of the country, including the respect of linguistic rights, and to firmly address extremist and neo-Nazi groups and their uncontrolled behaviour.
Our recommendation to Ukraine, he added, is for the country, in parallel with the financial support from the EU, to undergo extensive reforms with a view to fight corruption.
As regards sanctions adopted by the Council, Kasoulides said that Cyprus accepted the suggested measures in the name of unanimity.
At the same time he stressed that Cyprus is against measures which will be “punish us and our economies”.
He said that in the event of any possible measures that will hit the economics of member states as Cyprus, President Nicos Anastasiades will ask for countermeasures, in order for Cyprus to endorse them.
Bulgaria is also hesitant to proceed with further sanctions, while the Baltic member states of the EU are worried about repercussions, as they have a large presence of Russian-speakers, which in some countries represent a significant minority.
Kasoulides said that just as there were cases of “two or three” names on the first list of Yanukovich associates whose assets were frozen in Cyprus, the island’s authorities will undergo the same process and make the necessary checks with the central bank, the finance ministry and the anti-money laundering unit MOKAS, to see if any of the 21 Crimeans or Russians have assets in Cyprus.
“In any case, the accounts of the first few people were insignificant,” Kasoulides said, adding that even if they were major accounts, they would still be frozen or suspended in accordance to the capital controls imposed on Cyprus last year.