(Adds comment by president Anastasiades in the fifth paragraph)
By Stelios Orphanides
The Duma, Russia’s lower house, approved on Tuesday the restructuring of the €2.5bn loan Cyprus received in 2011, president Nicos Anastasiades said.
Anastasiades was talking to reporters following a meeting with Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin.
“We are here to express our determination to maintain our enduring relations, so that they remain strong, something proven by the decision of the Duma yesterday to ratify the restructuring of the loan,” Anastasiades said according to a statement emailed by the press and information office on Wednesday.
In 2011, when Cyprus was shut out of markets, then communist president Demetris Christofias requested and received a €2.5bn from Russia hoping the loan would allow him to spend the rest of his term without having to resort to an international bailout. Under the initial agreement the loan would be redeemed in 2016 and carried a 4.5 per cent interest rate.
Cyprus and Russia agreed to restructure the loan in 2013, after Nicosia agreed to an international bailout and reduced the interest rate to 2.5 per cent and prolonged its maturity until 2021 “eight equal instalments” starting 2018, according to the public debt management office 2013 annual report.
Anastasiades said that Cyprus is Russia’s most “reliable voice” within the European Union and expressed “the gratitude of the Cypriot people for the longstanding support of the Duma for the problems of Cyprus, underlining the principled position that the Russian Federation maintains at the UN Security Council and its stance with regard to the aversion of dangers after Turkey’s invasion.”
On Ukraine, Anastasiades said that while he is “aware” of the problems the crisis in the country is causing to Russia’s relations with the EU, the position of his government is that “the crisis can be solved only through diplomatic means and not military measures. From the outset, we said that the sanctions would not only hurt Russia but also the member-states and in particular the states that are dependent on or have links with Russia”.
Cyprus defends the “independence and territorial integrity of Ukrain on the basis of the Minsk agreements,” which provide for a cease fire and constitutional reforms in Ukraine that will grant the Donetsk and Luhansk regions a special status.
“I assure you that our effort will be to help in the effort to restore the EU-Russia relations,” Anastasiades said. “Cyprus is the most reliable voice for Russia within the EU”.