US officials have asked the government whether it is willing to transfer the country’s Russian-made weapons to Ukraine, according to a newspaper report.
This move would mean that Cyprus would no longer remain neutral in the war, changing the island’s relationship with western powers and NATO and breaking ties with the Kremlin.
If Cyprus agrees to the move, it will hand over the hardware to the US military and not ship it directly to Ukraine.
Sunday’s Kathimerini Cyprus edition said the request was received positively by President Nicos Anastasiades, who gave the go-ahead for further discussions.
A New York Times report said the Biden administration asked its allies, countries that were former members of the USSR, to help transfer Soviet-made tanks from its arsenals, which Ukrainian troops know how to use.
Kathimerini’s sources said the Americans specifically asked for Cypriot anti-aircraft weapons and attack helicopters.
Of particular interest are two types of anti-aircraft systems, the TOR/M1 purchased from Greece in exchange for the S-300 missile system and BUK M-2, including T-80u and BMP3 and the MI-35 helicopter.
The MI-35 helicopters were to be sold to Serbia in a deal that appears to have been put on ice.
According to the paper, if weapons from the National Guard are deployed to Ukraine, they will be replaced with corresponding American weaponry.
Nicosia covets the US Patriot missile system, which the National Guard has been eyeing since the US lifted restrictions on weapon sales to Cyprus.
The paper quoted National Guard sources, who stated they would be happy to see the military’s outdated weaponry go and replaced by more modern equipment.
If Cyprus gives up its Russian weapons, the benefits will be twofold, reported Kathimerini.
The US agreeing to replace weapons systems would essentially lift the military embargo by the US on Cyprus.
Based on the decision by the Trump administration, the US only lifted the restrictions on the sale of non-lethal weapons to the Republic of Cyprus.
Responding to reports, the US asked Cyprus to hand over their Russian-made weaponry; the Defence Ministry said it would not compromise the country’s defensive capabilities n any way.