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Greek Cypriot Finance Minister seeks Moscow’s aid

20 March 2013

Greek Cypriot Finance Minister Michael Sarris, has visited Moscow, amid mounting speculation that Russia could step in with a rescue plan to safeguard high levels of Russian deposits in Greek Cypriot banks.

Greek Cyprus has asked Russia for a five-year extension of an existing loan of 2.5 billion euros that matures in 2016, and a reduction in the 4.5 %interest rate.

Sarris told reporters in Moscow: “We’re hoping for a good outcome, but we cannot really predict.”

Anastasiades spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone on Tuesday after the Greek Cypriot MPs rejected the proposed tax by 36 votes to 0 with 19 abstentions, to the cheers of demonstrators.

The stock exchange and banks remained closed. Greek Cypriots, in a panic, had emptied cash machines at the weekend after news broke that they would be taxed on their savings to raise 5.8 billion euros in exchange for the bailout, breaking an unspoken rule that usually bank depositors’ money remains untouched.

The crisis is unprecedented in the history of the east Mediterranean island of 1.1 million people.

While Brussels has emphasised that the tax measure was a one-off for a country that accounts for just 0.2 percent of Europe’s output, fears have grown that savers in other, larger European countries might be spurred to withdraw funds.

Even the Church of Greek Cyprus offered to help. “The entire wealth of the Church is at the disposal of the country … so that we can stand on our own two feet and not on those of foreigners,” Archbishop Chrysostomos said after meeting Anastasiades early today,

The Church of Greek Cyprus is a major shareholder in Greek Cyprus’s third-largest domestic lender, Hellenic Bank

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