Cyprus says Moscow is willing to help

Cyprus’s president said on Wednesday that Russia is ready to join the European Union in putting together a rescue package for the crisis-hit country.

Dimitris Christofias (photo) said that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin assured him of Moscow’s readiness to “extend a helping hand” to Cyprus in a telephone conversation the previous day.

Christofias didn’t specify how much Russia would offer, but said this help could “save” the country.

“It’s natural for the Russian Federation to want Cyprus to receive a loan from the EU because it’s a member. But at the same time, as an old friend of Cyprus, it would like to help in cooperation with the EU,” Christofias told reporters in Belgrade, adding that he is hopeful EU-Russia talks on the issue would be successful.

Christofias said that Cyprus would stick to bailout obligations to reform its economy, even with Russian help. Cyprus’s Finance Minister Vassos Shiarly told The Associated Press in an interview on Monday that Russia’s contribution to a Cyprus bailout was “probable” and only a “question of time.”

Cyprus received a low-interest, 2.5-billion-euro loan from Russia in 2011 when it could no longer borrow from international markets.

It has formally asked to extend repayment of the loan from 2016 to 2021.

The country sought another 5 billion euros from Moscow last year without result.