Russia ban on Cyprus diplomats ‘unfortunate’

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Cyprus expressed dissatisfaction on Friday over Moscow’s decision to deny entry to three government officials, perceived as payback for the deportation of a Russian embassy staffer and journalist in October for allegedly being a security threat.

The ban, reported by local media, appears to target officials from the interior ministry.

Government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis, in an interview with state radio CyBC, dubbed Russia’s decision an ‘unpleasant development’, defending the actions of the officials in the case of the Russian journalist.

“They had simply followed instructions and carried out their duties,” said Letymbiotis.

He added that communication with Russia was ongoing through diplomatic channels.

A Russian diplomatic source, as reported by CyBC Moscow correspondent, Thanasis Avgerinos, suggested that Russia was willing to de-escalate tensions and not intensify the tensed relationship with Cyprus.

The source noted that the Russian reaction, while delayed compared to similar cases involving other EU member states, aimed at resolving the issue rather than aggravating it.

Retaliatory measures

The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a press release on January 18, informed the Cyprus ambassador in Moscow about retaliatory measures in response to what Russia deemed as unacceptable actions by Cypriot authorities in October 2023.

It stated that Cypriot officials directly involved in the perceived provocation were banned from entering Russia.

The actions pertained to Alexander Gasyuk, the correspondent of state-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta, accredited in Nicosia.

Gasyuk was detained in Cyprus on grounds of being a threat to national security and subsequently deported, causing a rare crisis in Russia-Cyprus relations. The Cypriot ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry in Moscow for an explanation.

Gasyuk claimed that Cypriot police had manhandled him, stating that his residence permit was revoked based on allegations of being a security threat.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry dismissed any suggestion of inappropriate activities by the journalist, deeming them “absolutely far-fetched.”