The National Times - Revoke Russian investor passports, Zelensky urges Cyprus

Revoke Russian investor passports, Zelensky urges Cyprus

Revoke Russian investor passports, Zelensky urges Cyprus
Revoke Russian investor passports, Zelensky urges Cyprus

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday urged Cyprus to revoke passports issued to Russians through an investment scheme and stop private yachts docking in its marinas.

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Zelensky made the plea during an address to the Cypriot parliament via live video link, the latest in a series of such speeches he has made to foreign legislatures after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"I'm grateful to you for your moral stance. You reacted to the Russian invasion and banned the docking of Russian ships in your ports," Zelensky said.

He added that Cyprus has "tools to pressure" its traditionally close friend Russia, and urged Cypriot authorities to "close the ports" to all Russian private yachts.

He called on the Cypriots to revoke passports issued to wealthy Russians under the disgraced citizenship for investment scheme shut down under corruption allegations in November 2020.

"Stop Russian golden passports, dual citizenship. Except those where there is evidence they do not harm Ukraine," Zelensky said.

After attending the session, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters that instructions were given for revocation of four passports of Russians on the European Union's sanctions list.

During the investment scheme, Cyprus issued hundreds of passports to Russian nationals and their families.

In November 2020, the Mediterranean island dropped the initiative after Al Jazeera aired a documentary showing reporters posing as fixers for a Chinese businessman seeking a Cypriot passport despite having a criminal record.

A public inquiry found that around half of the 6,779 passports issued under the programme were granted illegally.

Cyprus, a European Union member, allowed investors to acquire a passport in exchange for an investment of $2.5 million euros ($3 million).

During the 20-minute speech, a short video showed bomb-scarred cities like Mariupol and the bodies of Ukrainian civilians.

Cyprus has sent more than 215 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, its largest contribution overseas.

It has also received around 10,000 Ukrainian refugees in a country with a relatively large Russian diaspora.

A protest against the war took place outside parliament during the session.

Cyprus's main opposition party, communist AKEL, boycotted the meeting after a self-styled member of the Azov Regiment appeared in the teleconference Zelensky gave to Greece's parliament earlier Thursday.

The Azov Regiment defending Mariupol has been accused of far-right links.

Cyprus, one-third of which remains occupied by Turkish troops following that country's 1974 invasion, has ruled out sending Russian-made weapons systems on its territory to Ukraine.