It appears the Cypriots (or more clearly the European leaders) do not appreciate the extent to which Russia has propped up the local economy. “When the Russians leave who is going to stay at the Four Seasons for $500 a night? Angela Merkel?” one wealthy Russian asks rhetorically, as The FT reports, they are receiving a deluge of overseas phone calls from helpful Swiss bankers looking to swoop up the deposit transfers. "The locals should understand: as soon as the money leaves, the people who go to restaurants, buy cars and buy property leave too. The Cypriots’ means of living will disappear," and there are signs that the locals are getting how drastic this situation is, as a large billboard has sprung up at Larnaca Airport with a Russian flag and the words "Brat’ya ne predaite nas!" - "Brothers, don’t betray us!" Many Russian businessmen appear to have one foot out of the door already and are considering whih jurisdiction to move to as they await to see if Medvedev follows through on his threat to dismantle the double tax treaty with Cyprus.
And now the rumors are that billionaire Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea Football Club, has been arrested in the USA.
One Cypriot lawyer with Russian clients said he had already been approached by half-a-dozen European banks in locales ranging from Latvia to Switzerland to Germany, some of them promising they could open new bank accounts for his clients in under an hour.
“The Cypriots killed their country in one day,” says Mr Mikhin, referring to Friday March 15, when President Nicos Anastasides accepted the EU’s proposal to seize €5.8bn in emergency funds from Cyprus’s local and foreign depositors.
“The locals should understand: as soon as the money leaves, the people who go to restaurants, buy cars and buy property leave too. The Cypriots’ means of living will disappear,” he says.
“They are saying we laundered all the money, but they lived on that money for 10 years and forgot about it.”
Says another Nicosia-based lawyer: “I don’t understand why it is money laundering when it’s in Cyprus, when in London it’s a perfectly respectable company.”
“If the double-taxation treaty is lifted there will be no reason for us to stay in Cyprus,” an oligarch’s Russian lawyer says bluntly.
Mr Mikhin complains that the Cypriots do not appreciate the extent to which Russia has propped up the local economy. “When the Russians leave who is going to stay at the Four Seasons for $500 a night? Angela Merkel?”
But there are signs that a growing number of locals realise how drastic a mass emigration of Russian business would be.
Over the past week, a new billboard has sprung up on the highway between Limassol, the palm-treed beach town favoured by the Russians, and Larnaca International Airport.
Drawing on Russia and Cyprus’s shared Orthodox faith and deep political ties dating back to the Soviet era, the advertisement displays a massive Russian flag, with a desperate plea in Russian underneath: “Brat’ya ne predaite nas!”
“Brothers, don’t betray us!”