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Up to EU to decide on Cyprus aid: Putin

21 December 2012, 19:20 CET
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(BRUSSELS) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday it was up to European Union countries to decide on a bailout for Cyprus, despite its close economic links with Moscow.

"Cyprus is a member of the EU", Putin told a press conference held after a summit with EU president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso.

It is "not for us to interfere but there might be a situation" in which Moscow could play a role, especially given the strength of its own economy, he said.

Last year, Russia signed a 2.5 billion euro loan with Nicosia which in June asked for another 5.0 billion euros in aid, at roughly the same time as it put in a request for help from Brussels.

Barroso said that any Russian involvement in helping Cyprus was solely for the two parties to decide. An EU decision on Nicosia's aid request is expected in January, EU officials have said.

Nicosia requested the bailout in June when its two largest Greek-exposed banks asked for assistance after failing to meet EU capital buffer criteria.

Reports say Cyprus is seeking 17.5 billion euros ($23.1 billion), with 10 billion euros for the banks, 6.0 billion euros for maturing state debt and 1.5 billion euros for public finances.

That aid total would be equal to the country's entire economic output in 2011.

The Russian presence in Cyprus is highly visible, from property advertisements in Russian to newspapers and schools. Russian-owned deposits in Cypriot banks are said to total $26 billion.

An estimated 50,000 Russians live in the Greek Cypriot-run Republic of Cyprus, making up five percent of the population of more than 800,000. A smaller community lives in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island.

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