Cyprus cozies up to Russia

Cypriot officials let a Russian ship loaded with ammunition sail on to Syria

Cozying up to the bear

Andreas Lazarou/AFP/Getty Images

A Russian ship’s clandestine cargo has made plain the country’s cosy relationship with Cyprus, says the U.K.’s Guardian. The MS Chariot was carrying 60 tonnes of ammunition bound for Syria when it made an unplanned stop at the Cypriot port of Limassol. Cyprus, a member of the European Union, should have held up the ship; the EU has banned arms sales to the Syrian regime, to hamstring its brutal backlash to its citizens’ calls for change (Russia is unwavering in its support of Syria, a key ally). Instead, Cypriot officials skipped inspections and allowed the Chariot to refuel and set sail, after its captain gave his word he would alter his course and head for Turkey. The ship then fell off radar screens. It docked in Syria on Jan. 12.

It’s all evidence of Cyprus’s “embarrassing subservience” to Russia, says an anonymous columnist in the Cyprus Mail. The Guardian points to the many Russians now living in Limassol, a resort town offering all the comforts of home. There’s also the siren call of Cyprus’s low corporate tax rate for Russian businesses. And, last but not least, there’s the 2.5-billion-euro loan Russia has promised to boost Cyprus’s flagging economy. The second instalment was delivered on Jan. 26.