Special Operations: Russia Defends Crucial Cyprus Operations


June 11, 2024: The island nation of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean has, for Russia, been useful as a wretched hive of scum and villainy where local politicians and businesses, especially banks, make a lot of money by allowing Russia to do whatever it wants. That means Cyprus has become the one EU (European Union) country that eagerly and enthusiastically supports the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is nothing new because, since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cyprus has become a favorite place for Russian tourists, businesses, gangsters, and intelligence agencies to operate in a European country which welcomes them and their money. As long as the right Cypriot businesses and officials are paid, the Russians can conduct all manner of otherwise illegal activities.

Since the 1990s Cyprus has become a favorite vacation destination for Russians, especially during the winter. As long as the Soviet Union existed, its only warm in winter portions were in Crime where it was sometimes chilly even then. Cyprus is different as it is semi-tropical and long popular with northern Europeans as a vacation spot.

Unlike other European vacationers, as many as 50,000 Russians settled in Cyprus after 1991. There are now over 120,000 living in Cyprus because of economic difficulties back home caused by western economic sanctions over this and that, chiefly since 2022. These Russians now constitute about ten percent of the Cypriot population. Russians with enough money move to Cyprus until the Ukraine War is over. Cyprus has long been pro-Russian and supports the invasion of Ukraine and the continued fighting there.

Another interesting recent revelation was that Cyprus had never expelled a Russian diplomat. Other EU members have expelled over 300 Russian diplomats since the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. That’s 82 percent of the Russian diplomats expelled since 1991. Cyprus has become the headquarters for Russian smuggling, sabotage, and intelligence operations in Europe. Most of the Russian diplomats in Cyprus actually work for Russian government intelligence and special operations organizations.

Seven months after the invasion of Ukraine, Russia sent a senior FSB general with no diplomatic experience to be their ambassador to Cyprus. Russia also opened a consulate on the Turkish portion of Cyprus. Cyprus had been a British colony for many years until being given independence in 1960, whereupon ethnic strife between its Greek majority and Turkish minority began, and increased until 1974 when its government was overthrown by Greek nationalists with the aid of Greece’s then military dictatorship. And assassinated the US ambassador in the process. Turkey then invaded Cyprus to protect the Turkish minority, ethnically cleansed the island into separate Greek and Turkish areas, and created an independent Turkish state there in 1983. This new state did not prosper economically. The Greek state of Cyprus did, notably with tourism and international financial crime. Current illegal Russian activities in Cyprus are directed at supporting their operations in Ukraine and conducting hostile operations against NATO nations supporting Ukraine.

Russian intelligence operations, illegal banking and evading economic sanctions imposed after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine are tolerated. Many Cypriots view Russia as a protector and a partner and have sympathies for the Russian positions on various international issues, such as the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. Cyprus also has a strained relationship with Turkey, which occupies the northern part of the island and supports the Turkish Cypriot separatists. This makes Cyprus more inclined to align with Russia, which opposes Turkey's role and ambitions in the region.

Another possible reason why Russia is using Cyprus for intelligence operations, as well as illegal banking and other efforts to evade the economic sanctions imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine, is that Russia always takes advantage of weak legal and regulatory rules. Cypriots do not try to prevent foreigners from using Cypriot banks for money laundering, tax evasion and spying on Western businesses and governments.

Russia has strong economic and cultural ties with the Republic of Cyprus, as well as strategic interests in maintaining its access to the Mediterranean Sea and resisting NATO's presence in the region. Russia has used its veto power in the UN to block resolutions that would pressure Turkey to withdraw its troops from the north or impose sanctions on Turkish officials involved in illegal oil and natural gas drilling activities. Russia has also supported TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) efforts to gain more international recognition and legitimacy, such as by facilitating direct flights from Russia to the north. Turkey, on the other hand, has been the main supporter and protector of the TRNC, providing it with military, economic, and diplomatic assistance. Turkey has also asserted its role as a regional power and a defender of the rights of Turkish Cypriots, often clashing with the Republic of Cyprus, Greece, the EU, and the US over the status of the island and the maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.

After February 2022, many European countries denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine and imposed sanctions as well as expelling Russian spies operating as diplomats. At the same time there are problems with Russian agents arrested for plotting to sabotage key infrastructure across Europe as part of an effort to weaken European support for Ukrainians resisting the Russian invaders.

Cyprus is an ethnically divided island in the Mediterranean Sea that has been a member of the European Union since 2004, though EU laws do not extend to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north. Due to these divisions, the island is not a member of NATO. Thus, it offers Russia opportunities to cause trouble for European nations that oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


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