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As Russians flee their homeland in order to avoid conscription and the trenches in Ukraine where the Russian army has suffered devastating losses, neighboring countries like Georgia, Kazakhstan, Finland and Norway have tightened visa restrictions to prevent a flood of draft dodgers.
But the island of Cyprus has kept its doors open, welcoming as many as 50,000 Russians and Ukrainians looking to move to the sunny Mediterranean, the Washington Post reported. Divided into an ethnic Greek state that is the easternmost member of the European Union, and an ethnic Turkish state that only Turkey recognizes as a sovereign nation, Cyprus has long been a destination for Russians seeking to immigrate, move their money and headquarter businesses with relatively little hassle.
These trends have put Cyprus in a peculiar position vis-à-vis the war. On the one hand, for example, some partners and others from the firm PwC have left the global professional services company to start a new firm in Cyprus to work for Russian clients that the other “Big Four” accounting firms won’t accept, wrote the Financial Times.
On the other hand, Cyprus possesses an arsenal of Soviet-made weaponry that Western leaders view as a bonanza for Ukrainian forces that are using Soviet-era arms – but are running out of ammunition and replacement parts. As the New York Times explained, Cyprus has those weapons in part because the US imposed an arms embargo on the non-aligned country 35 years ago in order to deescalate a conflict between Greece, which backs the Greek Cypriot government, and Turkey – both NATO members.
But Cyprus only wants to give its weapons to Ukraine if it can replace them with the newest, latest military tech. The US recently lifted the arms embargo in order to hasten a transfer, Forbes noted. Now observers are expressing concerns over an arms race on the island between Greek Cypriots and the Turkish troops stationed on the southern, Turkish side, Al Jazeera wrote. Turkey invaded the island in 1974 after Greece’s military unsuccessfully attempted to annex Cyprus.
The tensions show signs of heating up. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now planning on fully annexing the Turkish side of the island, Middle East Eye wrote. Russia is also planning to begin direct flights to the Turkish-occupied part, the Conversation added, perhaps paving the way for Russia to recognize Turkish Cyprus as an independent country.
The death of Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the head of the Church of Cyprus, a denomination of the Orthodox Christian Church, could also improve Russia’s position, Reuters reported. Chrysostomos, who has died aged 81, frequently “butted heads” with Russian Orthodox leaders who tend to support Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It’s hard to find a clearer example of how Putin’s invasion is scrambling old political and military doctrines throughout the region.