MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev criticized the European Union’s handling of the financial crisis gripping Cyprus on Wednesday, describing it as a “bull in a china shop”.
He also raised the prospect of cancelling a tax treaty with the island, where many Russians keep billions of euros in savings that have been a factor in negotiations on aid to Cypriot banks.
A day before a visit to Moscow by European Commission leaders, Medvedev said a bank deposit levy, proposed by the EU as the price of a bailout and rejected by Cyprus, reminded him of Soviet-era policies he said robbed Russians of their savings.
“So far, the actions of the EU, the European Commission and the government of Cyprus on resolving the debt problem unfortunately remind me of the actions of a bull in a china shop,” RIA news agency quoted Medvedev as telling journalists.
With Cyprus seeking an alternative loan deal from Russia, Medvedev raised the prospect of the dissolution of a treaty on the avoidance of double-taxation between the two nations, which would make Cyprus less attractive for Russians with money.
“I don’t know if we need this treaty in this case. The question of its cancellation ... could come up,” he said. “So I say again: it’s necessary to act with the utmost care.”
The proposed bank levy, rejected by the Cypriot parliament on Tuesday, had a “clearly confiscatory, expropriating character,” RIA quoted him as saying - remarks that echo earlier criticism by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It was, Medvedev said, “absolutely unprecedented”.
He added: “I can only compare it some of the decisions taken ... by Soviet authorities, who did not give a thought to the savings of the population.”
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is leading a delegation on a two-day visit to Moscow starting on Thursday.
Reporting by Lidia Kelly, Steve Gutterman and Gareth Jones; Editing by Alastair Macdonald