MOSCOW, February 14 (RIA Novosti) – Cypriot defense minister Fotis Fotiou was led on a tour of a Russian nuclear-powered missile cruiser currently resupplying in the Mediterranean island, navy officials said Friday.
The visit by the Pyotr Veliky, the flagship of the Northern Fleet, to Cyprus comes against the backdrop of media speculation that Limassol may be considering granting Moscow a maritime base in exchange for economic aid for the struggling EU member.
Ties soured last year following the seizure and devaluation of deposits at Cypriot banks, which are heavily used as offshore tax havens by Russian businessmen. That move was part of requirements to qualify for a 10 billion euro ($13.7 billion) international aid package to rescue the nation’s banking sector.
Pyotr Veliky is deployed as part of a permanent Mediterranean naval task force established last year in what was widely seen as a response to increasing Western calls for intervention in the ongoing civil war in Syria.