Cypriot authorities revoke 21 passports purchased by sanctioned Russian oligarchs

Malta has so far suspended one Russian national’s citizenship following US sanctions

 

As the noose tightens on the wealth and freedom of movement of Russian oligarchs within the EU following the invasion of Ukraine, Cypriot authorities revoked a total of 21 passports belonging to Russian oligarchs and their dependents.

On Thursday, the country’s Cabinet formally voted to retract the passports of Alexander Ponomarenko, Vadim Nikolaevich Moskovic, Mikhail Gutseriev and Alexei Kuzmichev, and the dependents of each of the four individuals believed to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to news portal In-Cyprus.

While Cyprus has suspended 21 passports, so far only one naturalised Maltese person of Russian origin named Evgeniya Vladimirovna Bernova has had her citizenship revoked.

Bernova’s citizenship was revoked following the US Treasury’s decision to sanction 21 entities and 13 individuals, including Bernova, over links with companies that facilitated Russia’s illegal procurement of technology that could be used for military purposes.

While other member states like Bulgaria have heeded the EU Commission’s repeated calls for the permanent cessation of all golden passport schemes within the EU, Malta has so far resisted such calls.

On 6 April, the EU Commission issued its final warning to Malta before it launches a case at the European Court of Justice.

Six EU member states have also suspended golden visas schemes for Russian and Belarusian citizens.

Besides the crackdown on the sale of golden passports and visas, the EU, the US and the UK have introduced increasingly harsh sanctions meant to target the wealth of Russian oligarchs overseas since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

Two weeks ago, UK authorities seized a Malta-registered vessel known as ‘Phi’, a €45 million superyacht whose Russian owner has so far remained unidentified.

This contrasts with Malta’s more lenient approach towards these floating, multi-million euro assets.

Two days ago, following Norwegian dock-workers’ refusal to refuel a vessel reportedly owned by Russian oligarch Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, the $85 million superyacht known as ‘Ragnar’ was forced to leave Norway and begin its journey towards Malta, where it seems there is confidence it will get supplies denied in Norway.

Another superyacht, the ‘Polaris’, owned by Maxim Shubarev, a wealthy Russian businessman and owner of a Maltese passport, spent an evening moored in the Grand Harbour on 5 March, leaving the following day.

Concerns have also been repeatedly raised by EU bodies over the years over the issuance of EU passports to wealthy Russian elites who have had the opportunity to do so since Malta first began selling passports in 2013.

                           
                               
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