Russia between outrage and hysteria over Cyprus | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 21.03.2013
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Russia between outrage and hysteria over Cyprus

State TV runs special reports, Prime Minister Medvedev refers to 'Soviet methods,' populist Zhirinovsky wears black - all because of the Cyprus bank levy. But, how is the banking crisis viewed by the Russian public?

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin described the bank levy initially planned for Cyprus as "unfair, unprofessional and dangerous." Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev even spoke of 'expropriation' reminiscent of the Soviet era.

The levy has since been rejected by the Mediterranean island's parliament. The Russian TV station RTR interrupted its programming to report on the vote. It showed tables of Russian companies registered in Cyprus and the amount of Russian money in the island's banks. But there was no mention as to whether those billions had been properly taxed in Russia, or whether it was "dirty money" from semi-legal enterprises.

A matter of prestige

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov

Finance Minister Siluanov said there should have been more coordination with Russia

Criticism of the EU plan to have private bank account holders shoulder part of any Cyprus bailout also came from Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. News agency Interfax quoted him as saying that Russia had had an agreement with the eurozone to coordinate what to do about Cyprus.

"But then, the euro group arrived at it's decision about the bank levy without any consultations with Russia," the minister said.

Russian billionaire and former presidential candidate Mikhail Prochorov, in a newspaper interview with "Vedomosti," also pointed out that for him the issue was a matter of Russian prestige. "Cyprus has to consult with Russia on the same level. Russia already is one of Cyprus's lenders and has enough financial resources to rescue Cyprus financial system with market instruments," the billionaire said.

The role of Germany

Ruslan Grinberg, head of the economics department at the Russian Academy of Sciences said that Germany was behind everything that's happening around the Cyprus issue. Berlin was acting decisively and was signaling to everyone: "Guys, there's no more money without conditions."

Vladimir Zhirinovsky

Zhirinovsky insists all Russian's should be protected

But Cyprus hasn't accepted these conditions. This was also a signal to Germany and the other eurozone countries. "But I believe that there will be a last minute solution because Europe means consensus and progress toward EU integration through the crisis," the expert told DW.

Popular liberal journalist Yulia Latynina, however, sees the eurogroup's approach as a "triumph of socialist regulation and bureaucracy." Socialism always led to expropriation, she said.

"I have no doubt as to why the EU wants to expropriate the clients of the Cypriot banks. There's a lot of dirty money in the island's banks and European banks want to have that money. It is not a fight against dirty money but a fight over the dirty money," she wrote in the independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.

No pity

Populist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, in the meantime, has urged a fight for the money on Cyprus. He admitted that he wouldn't feel bad if this harmed some of the newly rich, but in the end, all Russian citizens should be protected, no matter how they made their money, he said. In parliament he demonstratively wore black. Zhirinovsky said he was in mourning over the Republic of Cyprus, private property, the EU and Schengen."

But, Nikita Krishevsky of OPORA Rossii, the association of small and medium-sized private enterprises in Russia, has a lot less compassion for the Russian money at stake in Cyprus.

"We have no reason to feel pity for corrupt officials that are are hiding money in offshore companies; money that's missing for building schools and hospitals," he said. "If you think that two-thirds of Russians have no bank deposits at all, then the hysteria about Cyprus seems a little bit hypocritical."

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